Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is the heart-breaking tale of 10-year-old Sarah Stravinsky, a French Jew, and her journey during the Holocaust in 1942. Paralleling her story is the account of American journalist Julia Jarmond, in the year 2002, who is living in France and assigned to cover the 60th anniversary of the Vél' d'Hiv', the French round-ups in which little Sarah and her family were arrested and sent to concentration camps. The two women have a tie that binds, as Julia discovers her French in-laws have owned the apartment that Sarah once lived in since her family was removed from it. As Julia desperately searches for Sarah, hoping she was one of the lucky few who escaped death at Auschwitz, she uncovers the unspeakable horror that Sarah endured in the very same apartment a secret that has haunted her in-laws for 60 years.
If the superb simplicity of this saga isn't enough to draw you in, Polly Stone's flawless narration will. She gives each character a distinct voice (complete with accurate accent and pitch), which lends authenticity, as if the characters themselves have come alive within her. This novel, like most accounts of the Holocaust, is weighty, ridden with horrific details. Stone's tone is subtle, letting these details ring out and strike your heart. She's also a master at building suspense, and you'll find yourself so endeared by little Sarah, that you will be white-knuckled for her during her frightening journey.
The last portion of the novel is a bit drawn out, but this is forgivable, as the denouement is touching, and Sarah's struggle is one that will stick with you long after you've finished listening to it. Colleen Oakley
Now a major motion picture starring Kristin Scott Thomas.
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a 10-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.
Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.
About the film: Stéphane Marsil presents a film by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, adapted from the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay published by Heloise D’Ormesson; Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Frederic Pierrot, Michel Duchaussoy, Dominique Frot, Natasha Mashkevich, with the participation of Gisele Casadesus and Aidan Quinn in the role of William Rainsferd. Screenplay by Serge Joncour and Giles Paquet-Brenner; Produced by Stéphane Marsil; Director of Photography Pascal Ridao (A.F.C.); 1st Assistant Director Olivier Coutard; Casting Gwendale Schmitz; Set Design Francoise Dupertuis (A.D.C.); Wardrobe Eric Perron; Sound Engineer Didier Codoul, Bruno Seznec, Alexandre Fleurant and Fabien Devillers; Editing Herve Schneid (A.C.E.); Original Music Max Richter; Line Producer Clement Sentilhes; Production Manager Antoine Theron. The Weinstein Company presents a Hugo Productions – Studio 37 – TF1 Droits Audiovisuels – France 2 Cinema; Co-Production with the participation of Canal+, TPS Star and France Televisions with the support of Region Ile-De-France; in association with the sofica A Plus Image.
©2007 Tatiana de Rosnay; (P)2008 Macmillan Audio
"This is a remarkable historical novel, a book which brings to light a disturbing and deliberately hidden aspect of French behavior towards Jews during World War II. Like Sophie's Choice, it's a book that impresses itself upon one's heart and soul forever."(Naomi Ragen, author of The Saturday Wife and The Covenant)
"Sarah's Key unlocks the star crossed, heart thumping story of an American journalist in Paris and the 60-year-old secret that could destroy her marriage. This book will stay on your mind long after it's back on the shelf." (Risa Miller, author of Welcome to Heavenly Heights)
"The story is heart-wrenching, and Polly Stone gives an excellent performance, keeping a low-key tone through descriptions of horror that would elicit excessive dramatics from a less talented performer." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
It's difficult to stop listening because the story is a mix of action, fascinating and, for me, new history. The events in 1942 sent me to the internet to find out more. What happened is devastating. And it takes a self-centered person like Julia to discover the story and make others care. That said, Julia is a bit difficult to take, especially the patronizing American attitude toward European culture. I would absolutely recommend this book and can't wait to see the movie.
I bought this book because I thought that it would be as good as Kristen Scott Thomas is an actress. In other words, I was seduced by the movie poster. Although I learned a bit about the roundup of French Jews during WWII and I'm grateful for that, this book isn't worth getting through to learn from. The writing is not good. The author repeatedly uses a series of internal questions (e.g., "What would he think if she did that?", "She wondered what he was doing at that moment.") instead of real character development and by the end of the book I was sick of it. She also repeats information again and again, as if the reader couldn't get it the first time. The plot is pretty contrived too; I thought it improbable, if not impossible. Kudos to the narrator for her excellent French accent and her convincing use of voices, but even she could not cover up the book's weaknesses.
Sarah’s Key should be advertised as Adolescent Literature; then again even a child would probably become annoyed with the incessant repetition of a character’s thoughts.
This pondering is understandable at the beginning with the child, Sarah, in light of her tragic circumstances, but unforgivable in the chic, self-possessed adult Julia, as the story develops.
The author moves us from past to present time dizzily chapter by chapter. I find the changes startling.
I give one star because the narrator has great delivery and because I learned about a fragment of the Holocaust that I hadn’t previously been aware of.
I liked the story, but the narration was terrible. The narrator did not pronounce the French words correctly and made it difficult to listen to.
These connecting stories were awesome. I don't know how I missed his information in history' but this broke my heart. How people can live with themselves after doing this to another human being. The story was so well written and narrated. This is a must ,people should know all of this history.
Just one of the possible millions of stories that took place during the Holocaust. Well written and developed, the audible version provided a way around the effort of having to pronounce French words and places for non-French speaking individuals. The pervasive sadness of the story was balanced with the joy of a new child and was a welcome event.
The author did an incredible job of telling the story and blending the times together. The narrator truly brought the characters to life. Thanks for a great moving tale, I think this will top my list at book club!
Without a doubt, Sarah's Key is the best book I have listened to or read in many many years. Readers are swept back into France of 1942 from the very first words and at the end, you are left wishing for more. The reader, Polly Stone, does an excellent job of portraying each individual character and one is never confused as to which character is speaking. This book will haunt me - and you - for years to come. Exceptional!
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