Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sarah's Key (Tatiana de Rosnay)

Once in a blue moon, a book comes along that is so profoundly moving that the reader cannot begin to fathom it. "Sarah's Key" is that book for the early part of the 21st century. It is a work of historical fiction set in France during the terrible time of the Holocaust.

Sarah Starzynski is a 10-year old Jewish girl living in Paris in July 1942 with her parents and younger brother. In the middle of the night, the French police bang at the door to arrest them. In order to protect her younger brother, Michel, Sarah locks him in a cupboard, their secret hiding place, promising to come back to him in a few "hours" when all this is over. Michel goes into the cupboard bravely with some water and his teddy bear. After the historically accurate Velodrome d'Hiver roundup on July 16, 1942 and the fact that her parents were torn away from her and sent to Auschwitz, Sarah can only hope that somehow her brother escaped the cupboard. She is able to slip away from Vel' d'Hiv' to go back to Michel. Your heart will pound as you follow Sarah's trip back there.

The novel seamlessly intertwines the time periods of Sarah and a journalist reporting on the 60th commemoration of the roundup, Julia Jarmond. Unknowingly, Julia and her family are preparing to move into the apartment where the cupboard was located. de Rosnay skillfully weaves between the major characters and time periods, showing that why some want to remember the Holocaust in any way they can, some choose to forget.

I cannot recommend this book enough. How many of us are ashamed to admit that we did not know that 76,000 Jews were deported from France by the French police and sent directly to Auschwitz? What happened to the 4,000 children arrested on that day, who had their heads forcibly shaved and their earrings ripped out of their ears for money? Read this book. You will weep and wonder how this could possibly have happened in our world less than 100 years ago.