Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay © 2007

http://www.moviefone.com/movie/sarahs-key/10047056/main?flv=1 Trailer for the movie which was released in 2010.

Background:

            In 1942, on July 16th and 17th, 13,152 Jews were arrested in Paris and its suburbs, deported, and then sent to Auschwitz to be executed. Between the time of their arrest and their deportation, 1,129 men, 2,916 women and 4,115 children were packed into the Velodrome in Paris by the French police.

Review:

            Sarah’s Key is one of those books that draws you in from the very first moment you begin to read. It held me firmly in its grasp from start to finish, forcing me to pore over every single word and absorb every minute detail of its heart-wrenching tale. When I was done, I felt like I had stepped into another world and lived a whole lifetime there; and now that it was over, it was time to review, regroup, re-assess and rest before I talked to God and we determined what would come next.

            Sarah’s Key is two stories, told through alternating chapters until they can no longer be kept apart and must join into one. It is a horror story, which sucks you into the darkness of history through the eyes of an un-named child. We do not learn the main character’s name until deep into the blackness of her nightmare. That tool, on the part of the author, gives great dimension to the events that take place. We are able to identify clearly with the people involved, seeing them less as ‘others’ and more as ‘ourselves’. It makes the point of view, our own.

            Although it is a fictional account of a real-life drama that began to unfold in France during the Nazi occupation, I think I would be accurate in suggesting most of it did take place. The actions, the thoughts and certainly, the emotions were all played out thousands of times on those few days in history.

            It also depicts an historical personal tragedy, which only Shakespeare or the Greeks could ever imagine; the kind of tragedy that leaves you stunned and dazed; the kind that could kill your soul.

            In the modern tale, we follow Julia, an American in Paris, a journalist, wife and mother, who seeks answers to this mystery of how did it happen, where, why, and most importantly, how could it happen?

            Julia is dragged through her search by the ghost of history. She has no more choice of paths to take, than the child whom the French Police arrested in the night.

Julia is driven forward by time and a desperate sense of urgency, the source of which is not revealed until the very last page of the book. And so in that aspect, this is also a ghost story, although no references of that sort are ever suggested.

            It is a love story, one of love lost and love found. It plays out as a paranormal thread, weaving itself through history from a child’s stricken soul to a woman’s found heart. I read the last two pages of the book over and over, crying my heart out with Julia, hanging onto the end of the tale with desperation like the child of the story held onto her mother. It was hard to let it go.

What do we do with this tale? Well, that would be the answer to “How could it happen?” Events like these are unfolding somewhere on this planet right now. And so, what are we doing about them? Are we ignoring the genocides? Are we turning our eyes away, thinking we are protecting ourselves and our family, when in truth we are simply killing our own soul?

            When you finish reading this book, and all of you must read this book, might I suggest you look around and see where this exact scenario is taking place, today. Take a long look at those who are being dragged into similar, if not identical, nightmares, and decide what you are going to do about them.

            How can we live in this century and still condone genocide? Yes, we condone genocide when we allow it to occur. If we do not speak up and say, “No!” we are as guilty as those who mastermind it.

            And so, more than anything, this should be a book of inspiration, for history is useless if we do not learn from it. If there is no lesson in our history, we risk becoming the catalysts of the nightmares of the future, instead of the healers of the wounds of the past.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay     Available where most books are sold.

5 STAR, Highly Recommend.

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3 thoughts on “Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay © 2007

  1. At first you said Sarah’s Key is a horror story which made me want to stop reading. I was luckily drawn onward to read the rest of your review and discover that, yes, it is a horror story, but so much more. It seems that it is told with great compassion and emotionally charged events which are just as relevant today as they were then. You have inspired me to read it soon.
    Thank you and blessings
    Zara

  2. Yes, it is a horror story, and I would like to share two of my friends histories.

    In the first a very wealthy Jewish mother and father in Paris. They heard the Nazis approaching and rounding up Jews. The mother seized her new-born baby, ran onto the balcony and threw her into her next door neighbour’s arms. Sadly the parents died. Happily, somehow or other, the neighbours saved the baby’s life at the risk of their own lives.

    In the second, I knew a Jewish lady who survived Auschwitz when she was a young girl. On arrival the women were ordered to strip and divided into two lines. She was ordered to go into one line, but someone grabbed her arm and pulled her into the other line. Had she joined the first she would have been gassed. Eventually she married and had a family and when I knew her was always cheerful. One day I asked her how she managed to be happy. ‘To be anything else,’ she said said with great conviction, ‘would be to allow the Nazi’s to destroy my life.’

    God bless both of them. Fate, kismet, karma, call it what you will is amazing.

    Rosemary Morris
    Historical Novelist

  3. Thanks for sharing , Rosemary. I met someone whose family left France because it was happening. They were lucky to get out. Your stories are very moving. Lynne

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