Sarah’s Key

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sarah’s Key
by Taiana De Rosnay
★★★

During World War II, the French police in Paris rounded up thousands of Jews and sent them to a Parisian stadium, the Velodrome d'Hiver, where they were held until being sent to Auschwitz for extermination.

This horrific event in history is one that I’d never heard of before reading this book and for that reason alone, I’m glad I read it. The story is written from two points of view. There’s Julia, the present day journalist researching the event, then there is a young girl, Sarah, who experiences the roundup as it happens. We flash back and forth between the two as the story unfolds.

The historical aspect of the plot was fascinating, but I didn’t like the modern day parts. The main character is married to a man that she continuously makes excuses for while he treats her horribly. It’s hard to embrace a character who puts up with someone like that.

The author decided to pair the issue of the Jews extermination in the 1940s with the modern day issue of abortion. I was definitely not expecting that and I felt like it unnecessarily complicated the plot. It’s not that abortion isn’t an important issue, it just felt like a very forced element in the story.

I was really disappointed with this book because there was so much potential. I felt like the emphasis was placed on the wrong things. There was an opportunity for a truly powerful story, but the author ignored it in lieu of talking about Julia’s personal drama. I’m still glad I read it, but in the end it just made me want to learn more about the Vel’ d'Hiv roundup.

Here’s more info on the actual event.

11 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

I couldn't have said it better. Our book club read this book, and while some raved about it, I was pretty turned off by the current day dramas. It killed the momentum of Sarah's story, which was the real attraction here.

Kathy said...

My reaction was very similar to yours--I'm glad I read the book, just because I learned about the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup from it, but overall I wasn't especially impressed. And the "past" story ended halfway through the book!!

Laura said...

I also read this book and understand where you're coming from. I wasn't totally turned off by the book, but I was definitely much less enthralled with the modern-day story and found myself bored by the time the Vel' d'Hiv' storyline was finished. I am so glad that a fictional book shined some light on these horrific events that have gone hidden for so long. If nothing else, I'm glad that people have turned to this book so as to learn about the round-ups.

Kathmeista said...

I totally agree - so much potential, just squandered. I was really disappointed by this book as well. The structure failed, the voice of Sarah didn't feel authentic to me and Julia's husband (swaggering Casanova one minute, blubbering misunderstood mid-life failure the next??!) annoyed me and... well I could go on. BUT for the one fact that I learned about the roundup, I'm glad to have read it. I'm just sad that this revelation was wasted on a 'meh' book.

Kate said...

Well said - I enjoyed this book, but I felt the same way. I don't really care about Julia's person drama... give me more about Sarah!

BookQuoter said...

I am so glad you reviewed this book. It was a maybe.

Avid Reader said...

I'm glad I wasn't alone on this one. It was just so disappointing.

Shelley said...

I completely agree with your review. Like you, I had never heard of this part of history, and found that aspect interesting.

Jillian said...

This one was interesting, but it was just okay. I forgot about it in just a couple of days, so I completely agree with your review.

Charley said...

I didn't love this book either, but there was one line that has stuck with me. Julia says, "Sorry for not knowing. Sorry for being 45 years old and not knowing." It reminded me of how much I don't know and don't even try to know about our world's history, and it made me want to have a better awareness of the past.

Avid Reader said...

Charley - What a great quote. I completely agree that this book reminded me of how little I know about world history. Even though I've read a lot about WWII, this was one event I'd never even heard of.