Title: Sarah’s Key
Author: Tatiana De Rosnay
Genre: Historical Fiction
“Sometimes, Miss Jarmond, it’s not easy to bring back the past. There are unpleasant surprises. The truth is harder than ignorance.”
Sarah’s life, and the lives of other Paris citizens, was upended in July, 1942. Against their own free will, they were forced to evacuate their homes, leaving everything but a few personal belongings behind. French police officers showed up at Sarah’s family home, banging on the door and demanding to enter. Confused and scared, Sarah hid her younger brother in a secret cupboard with plans to return to him when they were allowed to come home. However, Sarah soon realized that returning home would have to be on her own accord as the Third Reich had other plans for the Jewish citizens.
The story switches to a French woman named Julie living in Paris in 2002. Against the many warnings that she received, Julie decided to write an article about the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup of Jews in Paris. This journey of discovery landed her on the path of Sarah’s story which she soon learned intertwines with her own.
“How was it possible that entire lives could change, could be destroyed, and that streets and buildings remained the same.”
Tatiana De Rosnay made a great choice to present this story in a dual-timeline format. This allows her readers to experience not only how the Nazi regimen affected the French people in the 1940’s, but also in the decades following. Additionally, I appreciated the anticipation of knowing that the stories would somehow align. It created an intricate true crime puzzle that I thoroughly enjoyed solving.
Although Sarah’s Key is a fictional story, the events that took place in Vel’ d’Hiv’ were very real. The main characters in the story were also realistic in the sense that they were not perfect. They made mistakes, like any other human, and grew into new identities by the end of the story.
“He had said, hesitatingly, “Because they think we are different. So they are frightened of us.” But what was different? thought the girl. What was so different?”
Sarah’s story is both heartbreaking and eye opening. For those of us who were not alive during World War II, this book allows us to understand the horrors that took place and put ourselves in the shoes of those that were affected. Sarah’s Key would be a great addition to a high school reading list. I say high school specifically because there are few intense themes present in this book such as death, sex, and torture that a younger audience may not be ready for.
I recommend that everyone reads Sarah’s Key and allows themselves to grow alongside the characters. There are a lot of educational themes in this book that we can all benefit to learn from. This book has also now been made into a motion picture which you can stream on YouTube.
“Remember. Never forget.”