Fiction — print. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008. 293 pgs. Purchased.
Part mystery and part admonishment towards the French, Sarah’s Key is a novel I saw all over the blogosphere when the novel was first released. Quite a few people loved Tatiana de Rosnay’s novel, and I added it to my to-be-read list based on their reviews. Unfortunately, my old public library, my college library, and my new public library seemed to have missed the memo, and I was waiting until a copy became available on PaperBackSwap. That hasn’t happened so I wound up buying a copy for my trip home.
The novel begins with ten-year-old Sarah and her parents being rounded up in Paris by the French police on July 16, 1942. Concerned for her four-year-old brother’s safety, Sarah locks him in their secret hiding place and promises to return. By the time her father realizes what she has done, it is too late to save the little boy, Michael, as Sarah and her parents are being rounded up and deported under the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup. Sixty years later, American journalist Julia Jarmond has been assigned to write an article about the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, and is horrified to learn that only has Vel’ d’Hiv been swept under the rug by the French, but that her in-laws benefited from the roundup. As the two narratives alternate, Julia hurries to find out what happened to Sarah as Sarah rushes to save her little brother.
I enjoyed reading this novel as the mystery of what happened to Sarah unfolded, and I even enjoyed reading about Julia as her marriage crumbled, she attempted to make a very personal decision, and she struggled to tell others about Sarah’s story. Especially interesting was learning about the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, which included the mass deportation of children, and about how the French have attempted to conceal their role in the deportation of France’s Jewish citizens. (A close friend from college who was born and raised in France had no knowledge of the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup.) But by the end I wasn’t all that interested in Julia, and would have liked the novel to focus more on Sarah than Julia.