Sarah’s Key…this book will make you think

Rafle du Vel d'Hiv plaque

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I picked this book up Saturday and finished reading it Sunday evening…you can always tell how much I like a book by how quickly I read it.  I had trouble putting Sarah’s Key down…that’s how good this book is.

The book seamlessly weaves the stories of a young Jewish girl (Sarah) in France during World War II and a modern era American journalist  (Julia) who has a writing assignment about the horror that was the Vel’ d’Hiv in Paris.  Not sure what the Vel’ d’Hiv is?  Neither was I.  French Jews (women and children along with the men) were rounded up by French police officers, forced to the Velodrome d’Hiver where they were held prisoner for several days, no food, no water, no restrooms…they were held in these horrendous conditions by their fellow countrymen…I guess that’s one of the things that struck me, these were not Nazis, these were French police officers who committed these atrocities against French citizens.

The people were eventually shipped off to the concentration camps, but the pain and suffering they endured along the entire journey was something no human should have to live through.  Sarah and her parents were caught in the round-up, but Sarah hid her four-year-old brother in their secret hiding place to keep him safe.  I won’t give away that part of the story, but be sure you have a box of tissues close at hand.  I will tell you that Sarah manages to escape, but she lives with what happened for the rest of her life.  There’s no escaping the hell these people lived through.

As Julia researches the story, she learns about Sarah and is captivated by her plight…obsessed might be a better word.  But I found myself feeling just as obsessed as Julia was.  I won’t tell you that the story has a happy ending, how could it when you consider the subject matter?

I think, for me, the story raises all kinds of questions…why did we never study this part of the war in school?  What we studied made it seem that  the Nazis in Germany were solely responsible for all of the atrocities that occurred (and the Japanese as far as Pearl Harbor was concerned), but not that the police in other nations turned against their countrymen.   What else isn’t common knowledge?  Did the United States play some part in allowing so many of the powerful, wealthy Nazis to emigrate to South America, and if so, for what purpose?   I’m totally off focus here, but I told you the book would make you think…give it a read and let me know what you think.

17 Responses

  1. Is this book fiction or was it written from actual facts? Sounds interesting.

    • The book is fiction, Margaret, as far as the characters are concerned. But the historical references are based on fact…very interesting and moving.

  2. I also saw where this book had been made into a movie just last weekend. I checked at the video store, but they did not have it, nor had they heard of it. Thanks for the reminder to google it!

    I love history, but I love it so much more when there is a personal story attached. I want to know how people felt about what was happening, and what was the world like then? How did people cope with things that happened…and how did it affect their world…not the big world, but the small world of an individual or family.

    I listened to this book on CD when I was going to school. With a two hour commute I listened to a LOT of books, and fortunately for me, the school had a good selection. I was doing lots of reading while going to college, but it wasn’t what “I” wanted to read!!! And I had no time to read either, because most semesters I was taking 15-18 credit hours. Then I discovered books on audio! Changed my life! Haha! Where had I been? Now I make sure I have a book downloaded to my iPod so when I do the dishes I am not only doing a necessary chore, but also ‘reading’ a good book! I call it Productive Laziness! (the ex considered reading a form of laziness). No more trying to find a good song on the radio in the car (hard to do in the boonies!) I have my book plugged in!
    But I digress……

    I made the mistake of coming back out to the car to finish this one between classes. I was a mess going back in, then all through class I could only think of what had happened. I won’t give it away either, but I think there were/are a lot more Sarah’s out there. I don’t think our hearts could hold all the stories of all the people who suffered the atrocities inflicted upon them. I thought about how they would not have known what was hitting them. They would have maybe had an inkling of an idea, maybe from word of mouth, but unlike us today, where Facebook has news of an earthquake in Japan before CNN has it posted, these events would have blindsided little villages and towns.
    I am thankful, and somewhat amazed at times, of what we can learn from the internet. Especially when I come upon a book like this, or a movie like Defiance, where I can instantly seek more information about that part of history.

    • Whoops, Just last weekend I noticed there was a movie, NOT that the movie was just made last week! My bad….

    • I think you’re right, Lisa…the world is a much smaller place now than it was 60 or 70 years ago…our grandparents would be amazed with our modern technology…I remember my grandparents talking about not having phones, tv, indoor plumbing, heck…they grew up without cars…what would they think about the world today?

      I’ve not listened to any audio books…I think it was a very good use of your commuting time while you were in school…I just never liked to have anything read to me and I can’t seem to get past that… But maybe I’ll give it a whirl…

      I think you’re right about there being many more Sarahs out there…everyone has a story, some of them are unbelievably painful.

  3. This one sounds like a book I’d enjoy, the historical part not the tissue part. It’s always interesting to me how much history we actually didn’t learn in school. Thanks for the review!

    • I bet you would like this book, Simone…obviously it’s a work of fiction, but the historical aspects of the story are based on facts..just make sure you have those tissues on hand…

      • I’ll keep an eye out for it. Over the weekend I finally got to Water for Elephants. I stayed up until after 2 am to finish it. Sarah’s Key sounds like it would be likeable to me for similar reasons. A good story plus I’d learn something new.

      • Water for Elephants…what’s that about? Do I need to add that to my to-read list too?

      • I thought Water for Elephants was excellent. I’ll attempt to post a review of it to give a better picture. It’s about circus life around the time of America’s Depression. The writer included old photographs and wove the story around those.

      • I look forward to your review…I have to admit, I’ve never been a big circus fan…too much mistreatment of the animals for me…for some reason, when I was a kid, we made several trips to the circus…I don’t like clowns…they never scared me, but I also never thought they were funny…I still don’t…am I weird, or what?

  4. My friend saw the movie last weekend and said it was very dark but very good. I don’t know much about it but based on your review, it sounds interesting.

    • I haven’t seen the movie yet. A friend and I have decided to get a group of us girls together to go out and see The Help sometime soon..looking forward to that.

  5. Thanks for sharing. The list of books I want to read is growing rapidly!

    • oh for me too…I keep reading reviews and hearing about what my friends are reading, and I keep adding more and more titles to my list…not a bad plight to have tho…

      • At writers group we learned that reading is feeding, so not a bad plight at all. Adding to a previous comment–the circus isn’t much to our liking. I don’t find clowns funny, either, and our daughter was scared of them.

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