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)
This isn't a book that you can "like". The events of 1942, told by 10-year-old Sarah, are stark, tragic and horrific -- I don't think you can read that and say, "Gee, I like that book!" So, although I won't say I liked it I will say it was compelling. The beginning of the book alternates between 1942 and 2002 -- this part of the book was a very good and interesting read; however when 2002 takes over and we are "stuck" with Julia, the book for me takes a sharp downward turn.
I agree with another reviewer that the Julia character is trivial. Beyond trivial at times! Her constant self doubt is overplayed and annoying...Did I still love my husband? I could not say; Did I still want this child? I did not know...Enough!
Sarah deserved a much stronger advocate.
I will say, however, that I do think about the book and it did open my eyes to truly tragic events that I did not know about. Also it prompted me to learn more about the events of July 1942. The book definitely has merit, but as I said in my title, it's about 200 pages too long.
As for rating the book: Lately I find myself using food...so here goes. For me, this book starts out a strong 'meat and potatoes' story; something you can sink your teeth into, something you want to read. But at some point the author apparently lost track of what book she was writing and didn't know what to put in and -- even more to the point -- what to leave out. So she put everything in...ridiculous, meandering, unbelievable story lines, characters and events that have nothing to do with the story at hand...she simply didn't know where to stop or how to edit herself. So she took what was and could have been a real 'meat and potatoes' plate, threw everything she could think of into the pot and eventually wound up with a big bowl of stew! Stew's not so bad...there's still meat and potatoes in there, it's just all mushed up with everything else.
Would I recommend it? Yeah -- although not completely wholeheartedly.
A book to provoke thought and insight into the times of many years ago. I enjoyed the book and was glad to increase my memory of events that happen about the time I was born. It mades us determine to never again allow these events to happen to people and sit by never trying to stop them. It is a learning experience and brings us back to the possibility that we are responsible for injustice to others.
What a wonderful story. Made me stop and realize how many events pass by and we have no idea what some people are really working through. May God bless all those who have suffered through such horrible times. The story line keeps you interested and moves fast. An enjoyable book and strongly recomend it.
This novel tells a story, however fictional, that needs to be told to the current generation. Many young folks think that this could never happen!!! Such things did!
Very interesting and informative. The whole first part was so good. After the author stopped going back and forth in time to tell the story I was not as captivated. Overall a good listen.
Brings to light the French Holocaust of which not many people are aware. The story was a little too coincidental but entertaining.
I'm sad to say I did not know about the round up of Jews in France 1942. This gave me a history lesson. Too much time was spent on Julia and her personal family and problems the fictional part of the book. I would have liked to hear more on this time period in France.
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