Synopsis from Goodreads:
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
Almost every adult knows about the horrors of the Holocaust. We have all heard tales of Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, and elsewhere. We remember the horrors that millions of Jews suffered at the hands of German soldiers know as Nazis. But how many of us know about the camps in other countries? Sarah’s Key touches on the way the French police treated their own citizens simply for being Jewish.
Before reading Sarah’s Key for my book club this month, I was completely unaware of the Vel d’Hiv roundup. I knew about the way Jews were rounded up in Germany, I even knew about the way Americans locked their Japanese citizens in camps but to see the story of a 10 year old girl being arrested by police that she knew and even trusted was on a completely different level. Sarah was not captured byt german soldiers, her entire family was arrested by their own countrymen.
Sarah’s Key is told from two separate points of view, we learn about France during World War II from Sarah, and then we learn about the opinions of modern day France from Julia, an American journalist writing about one of the blackest days in France’s history. Normally this is not a style of writing that I enjoy (For an example look at my post about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society from last month), however, I feel that Ms. deRosnay handled this very well. I was completely drawn into the characters.
While the book did not focus solely on the Holocaust it did bring to light an aspect that might not be commonly known. I would recommend this book to someone but I will warn you, it isn’t a light read and it will tug on your heart strings.