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Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review: Sarah's Key

First and foremost, I must thank author Tatiana de Rosnay, who educated me on the despicable Vel d'Hiv event.  Like the characters in the book, I had no idea this happened.  In July of 1942, French police and French buses - not German - rounded up thousands of Jews in Paris while French citizens turned a blind eye.  As the book points out, you can not begin to understand how you would act when actually in the situation, but it is hard to believe that such horrible acts were carried out by the French.

My Mom had brought me this book about two years ago, but I never got around to reading it.  Truthfully, I never even read the back cover so I did not even know what it was about.  Even after a couple other people recommended it, the book remained on the shelf until I heard the movie was coming out.  I was reading the New York Times three weeks ago and saw an ad for the movie when I realized what the plot was.  "Wow," I thought.  "That's not at all what I thought it was about.  I should probably get on that."  I quick finished the book I was reading so I could get through Sarah's Key before seeing the movie yesterday.  I thought the film was well done but missed the complexities of some of the characters.  I felt Bertrand was not properly developed and Edouard seemed more like an afterthought, while I had found his character to be the most interesting in the novel.

This work of historical fiction alternates between 1942 and modern day.  In 1942, little Sarah is desperately trying to get back to her little brother whom she hid in a secret cabinet before being driven out of her apartment.  In 2002, Julia Jarmond is researching the Vel d'Hiv and learning of her family's own connection to the event.  60 years later, Sarah's story connects her to many people who are damaged upon learning the truth as the story unfolds.  While this damage is irreparable, the characters seem to eventually receive peace of mind.  It may be fiction, but that doesn't mean it should be wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end.  The Holocaust was horrific and if we were all totally fine at the end, we would forget.  And we must never forget.

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