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)
Love a good mystery, but don't care much for pure thrillers.
Interesting story of an American Jewish woman, Julia Jarmond, living in Paris for 25 years and seemingly happily married to a non-Jewish Frenchman. A journalist working for an English language magazine, she becomes obsessed with the story of the round-up of Jews at Vel' d'Hiv in 1942. In particular, she discovers that a girl named Sarah Starzynski was among the group and that, after the war, it had never been determined just what had happened to her. This is a mystery she is determined to resolve if possible, and this plot is intertwined with Julia's internal struggles to come to terms with her heritage and, as it turns out, her husband's attitude toward her and her efforts. These two issues become intertwined more and more as the book develops, and although there was too much jumping back and forth in time in the beginning, eventually the book settles down. The prose isn't lyrical, but it does get the message across. There is too much "telling" and not enough "showing", and you need to have a high tolerance for this, as I do.
The book is enlivened by the narrator, who gives distinct voices and accents to each character, a very diverse and challenging collection. It's always difficult to read about the Holocaust, and I had not been familiar with the Vel' d'Hiv or these aspects of the French Nazi's. It's a book that I am glad to have "read."
Not really. The genre was not the problem. The writing was poor.
The narrator was very poor. Her attempt to do character voices made a tragic situation laughable. It was like listening to a poorly performed puppet theater without being able to see the stage. I think almost anyone could have done a better job.
Sarah's story was good but was only a small part of the story and ended way too soon. I did not care about Julia at all.
There are 2 stories in this novel. A tragic story of Sarah who was a Jewish girl in 1942 and a self absorbed one deferential American woman living in France with her philandering husband sixty years later. If the whole story had focused on Sarah's story, this would have been an excellent read. Unfortunately the author spent too little time on Sarah's story and a great deal of time on Julia's sex life with her French husband.
This felt like it was junior high school level reading. Harlequin meets Holocaust. Predictable with undeveloped characters.
Your emotions will spin with this story ... little children, Nazi occupation, love and war. It's a present day story with a WWII mystery intertwined. I really got absorbed in this one and hated to see it end. A must read.
This book does start off slowly, however, you are captivated by real characters, awesome dual story line, Jewish/French history along with modern France/America. This story was well worth the purchase. The story was so good and touching, that I can't but help think of the book every now and then and smile.
I am not sure why I do not pay much attention to other reader's reviews until AFTER I have read (listened to) the book. But that is how it happens. I probably would have gotten to this book anyway. But as many other reviewer's have already stated, I loved the historical part but was dissappointed with the modern day side. There were other directions it could have taken, but did not. The end was long, drawn out, and boring.
The beginning was slow and difficult to get into. When listening, one is not aware of paragraph changes, chapter endings, and such. Therefore, it was difficult to know when it was 1942 or 2002. But as the story continued, it caught me up in the story. The middle was wonderful. But then as it was ending, it went downhill. The long struggle to find some survivor of Sarah, the marital difficulties, the all-knowing-come-to-the-rescue older daughter, even the story of the son were a bit trite. If the author had kept to Sarah's story she would have been better off.
Narration was excellent. Transition's between characters was well differentiated and accents were wonderful.
This is a wonderful story. Admittedly it's a bit slow getting started. And the cutting from the present to the past and back again takes getting use to; however, it is an excellent way of telling the story. Both stories are told in tandum and are wrapped up in a most satisfying way. It reminded me of a geneological search.
The book is well worth the time to read. I think those that do take the time will be very glad they did. Polly Stone, the narrator, does an outstanding job. Her accents are on point and she gives each character their own recognizable voice.
I found this book fascinating, and learned some historical information. The charachters were realistic. All in all, a very good listen.
Beautiful, poignant and often poetic, the story of Sarah, a heroic, tragic child living in a time of horror left me breathless. At the same time, the novel portrays a believable, smart and quirky contemporary protagonist who is strong and honest. I enjoyed this novel immensely. The reader does a superb job with each voice. I especially enjoyed her rendition of the contemporary protagonist, and I had not expected that at all. Well worth the time and energy. Thanks you.
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I first read this book in 2010 and I loved it! I think I even labelled it a favourite. It’s lingered in my memory for so long, I decided to pick it up again…. and I fell out of love.
My opinion this time is split right down the middle.
The storyline around Sarah was great. Still loved it. I also appreciated from the first time I read this book learning all about the Vel D’hiv Round-Up in Paris in 1942 and thanks to this book I tracked down the memorial in Paris to take pictures of it.
The rest of the book? Fail.
Because it was a re-read and I knew where the story was going and how it would end, I was less distracted by Sarah’s fascinating story and that left me able to pick apart the secondary storylines.
I did not really care for any of the characters and I found their relationships never felt real. It was all too forced and contrived, more like caricatures and less like real people. Julia’s attraction to William toward the end of the book was the least believable of all and I was never sure where it was going! Was it a burgeoning romance? Julia spoke of feeling soooooo at ease with him for some strange inexplicable reason, and their last conversation was filled with “I should have never gone there alone” and “I needed you with me” lines… If they were supposed to have had this amazing chemistry that kept them in each other’s minds for years, the author did a poor job of conveying that sensation.
I also wondered about the point of Julia’s baby storyline. It added nothing to the core story other than to provide a reason for divorcing her husband and give us a saccharine eye-rolly moment when we discover that she named the child Sarah. Who did not see that coming a mile away?
Regarding all her in-laws, I did not understand their motivations at all. “Don’t dig up the past, it’s too difficult, it’s too painful”… well… maybe if they were directly responsible for the events in the past but they were not - they were bystanders! At one point, Julia’s husband gets furious with her because of her investigation into the past, but based on what? He was not in on “the secret that needed to stay buried”, so why get irate about it being uncovered?
This leads me to my biggest complaint: Why is this even a secret? The events themselves were tragic enough and slowly discovering what happened to Sarah’s brother was very compelling. Why turn it into a secret on top of that? It’s as if the author wanted to increase the mystery by turning it all into something that needed to stay hushed up… but that was odd to me. Like for example, when we discover Julia’s father-in law had sent money to help Sarah on the condition it would be anonymous. Why? I think that was the weirdest part of all. Making up secrets just to have them.
Aside from the characters, another thing I didn’t like about the writing is that I sometimes felt like I was reading a map. “I took bus 62 to street X, then walked 3 block over to there…” It might have been fun for the author to insert navigation directions but it did not remind me of exploring Paris at all and I have been 4 times!
Regarding the narration, my hugest pet peeve was alive and well: how all Parisians sound like Inspector Clouseau. Ok, in all fairness this narrator was not THAT bad, but it always makes me wonder why bother with an accent at all. More often than not, it's more distracting than good.
(William's voice was terrible)
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