Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Sarah’s Key

Tuesday, I read a whole book—the first time I’ve ever done that since I was a kid.

For months, my writer buddy Marion has told me how good Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay, is. Tuesday, I borrowed her copy. Once I started to read, I couldn’t stop. I finished it in less than eight hours.

Sarah’s Key is a novel about the Holocaust. But it’s set in France, and—while fiction—is based on a real event in which the French police cooperated with the Nazis by rounding up the French Jews, detaining them for a few days at the Vélodrome d'Hiver, and then separating families by sending them off to Poland.

Part of the story takes place in 1942 and is told in third person point of view about 10-year-old Sarah, who locks her brother in a closet when the police come for her family. She thinks he’ll be safe, and she’ll soon come back to get him. Only she can’t. After she finally escapes from the Vel’ d’Hiv’, and—with help from a French farm couple—it takes her weeks to get back to her apartment, which has since been rented to another family.

Part of the story takes place in 2002 (and later) and is told in first person by Julia Jarmond, a magazine writer assigned to write about the Vel’ d’Hiv’ and whose architect husband is renovating the old apartment that used to belong to Sarah’s family. Julia becomes obsessed with learning about the Jews who used to live in the apartment and what happened to them.

From the publisher’s website, here’s the synopsis:

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.

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.

Sarah’s Key is one of the most compelling books I’ve read lately. It has so many layers of meaning, so many intertwined themes and events.

The Franklin County Library selected Sarah’s Key for its next discussion. Looks like I'll be attending the meeting next week.



Blogger Amy Hanek said...

Just for the record, I read your book in just one sitting - also a great book!

I will have to borrow "Sarah's Key" one day - when I find the time to read again!

9:21 AM  
Blogger Becky Mushko said...

But Patches on the Same Quilt is much shorter! (I'm glad you enjoyed it.)

I'll return Marion's copy to her next week. Tell her you want it next.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Yansor said...

Thank you very much, I'm very happy you enjoyed Sarah's Key. Writing it was a very important step for me.
Best wishes from Paris, France

Tatiana de Rosnay
Sarah's Key Blog is here :

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read "Sarah's Key" in one sitting, unable to put it down. Great book... a must read!!

12:21 PM  

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