By Tatiana de Rosnay
Fourth Tuesday Book Club
This book connects the past with the present. It is a novel, but its story weaves around actual events that each of us needs to know happened. It tells about a young girl and the Velodrome d’Hiver roundup, which took place on July 16, 1942 in Paris, France. It is also a tale of a middle aged American woman who married a French man and is living in Paris during the twenty-first century. Each of these two individuals discovers more about themselves because they are thrust into situations that force them to do what they know is right. This is a story of secrets—secrets held by a nation, by families, and by individuals. The secrets hurt each one until they finally give up their secrets and admit to themselves what really happened. Those who failed to expose their secrets suffered in the end.
The Velodrome d’Hiver roundup took place in Vichy France, the portion of the country controlled by the German Nazi government. The French puppet regime did what they had to do to stay in power. Their police and government officials took trusting French Jews and herded them into a local stadium. The conditions that these citizens experienced were terrible. The Jewish families were later shipped to Auschwitz where they were gassed. The book describes a family that is taken from its home, treated horribly, and then torn apart. We are all familiar with the horrendous treatment of Jews and others during the Holocaust. This story, however, dwells on the experience of a ten-year-old girl named Sarah.
The first part of Sarah’s Key switches back and forth from the events of 1942 to the involvement of Julia, an American writer who was living in Paris in 2002. Her immediate family consists of Bertrand, her extremely attractive French husband, and Zoe, their 11 year old daughter. Other family members become important to the story, like Bertrand’s father Edouard, his grandmother, Mame, and Bertrand’s sisters. Julia works for an American magazine that publishes articles about France. She is assigned the job of covering the 60th year anniversary of the event that most of France wants to forget. It is her discoveries, the secrets that her family has maintained for decades, and the mystery of what happened to Sarah that drives the story.
The author does a fine job of connecting the two events in history. She doles out one small clue after another to keep the reader involved in not only Sarah’s story but in Julia’s also. Finally we find that the two stories connect, and, just like Sarah sixty years before, Julia’s life is changed forever. It is a marvelous story that we recommend highly.
Key Ideas from different club members:
Educational, I learned about historical events that I did not know about before; Compelling; Good read; Intriguing; I liked the way the author wove the past and the present; Unable to put it down; Very sad.
The Club Members rating this book:
Kirk Baker, Linda Bowman, Pat Gombita, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Sharon Shaffer, Bill Simmons, Lynn Simmons, Helen Skalski, Deb Stewart and Linda Troll
Club’s Average Rating: 3.95 of 5 Rating Range: 2 to 5