Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay, is a book that I was to read for my January book club, though I hadn’t intended on reading it when I did, or finishing it in such a short time. You see, my husband plays hockey Sunday mornings and, on occasion, I’ll go with him if we’re planning to go somewhere else afterwards. Let me just say that without my morning coffee, I’m not quite all “there” in the morning, so when we went to leave I must have grabbed the first book on my nightstand without paying much attention. I was reading Secret Daughter at this time and had intended on continuing to read it at hockey, so when I whipped out Sarah’s Key, I was confused for about 5 minutes, until I realized that my bookmark wasn’t missing: I had grabbed the wrong book.
After giving myself heck for not taking the correct book, I settled into what I brought and was then kicking myself for owning this book for such a long time and not reading it until now.
Sarah’s Key tells two stories: one is the story of Sarah, a Jewish girl, during the days of the Holocaust, who made the decision to lock her brother in a cupboard when the French police came to take her family away, telling herself that she’ll come back to get him. The other is the story of Julia, an American in Paris, a journalist who is writing a story about this particular time in history. The story is told, at first, from each perspective, ultimately merging partway through the book.
I thought it was a fantastic read and found myself hooked from the first chapter. I have read books on the Holocaust in the past and whenever I do, I find myself wanting to read more. I was entranced by Sarah’s story and wanted to hear more from her, long after her part of the story came to an end. I appreciated Julia’s point of view, but it was nothing compared to Sarah’s. de Rosnay paints a picture of the wartime and it was hard not to get completely absorbed by both stories with their well-painted characters and landscapes.
While I appreciated Julia’s story, I found myself intrigued mostly when she was relaying information about Sarah’s story, though, as a character, I didn’t really like her character. I thought she acted like a doormat in her relationship and I couldn’t find myself relating to her. She didn’t have the strength that Sarah had during her story and I had hoped she would find the strength by the end of the novel, but she never did.
I also thought that, at times, things came a little too easy to Julia with her research. People, places, and events needed little to no research and some of her acquaintances seemed too coincidental. Though, I did find myself guessing what would happen throughout the novel, only to find that my original instincts were constantly being thwarted. The writing is simple and the prose easy to read, and the message about never forgetting is a powerful one.
If you enjoy reading books about history (though de Rosnay is clear to say that this is not an intentional book about the history of the Vel d’Hiv), or want a quick, engrossing read, give Sarah’s Key a try. I found myself wanting to read more about the events, as well as learning more about the history of my own country.