De Rosnay’s U.S. debut fictionalizes the 1942 Paris roundups and deportations, in which thousands of Jewish families were arrested, held at the Vélodrome d’Hiver outside the city, then transported to Auschwitz. Forty-five-year-old Julia Jarmond, American by birth, moved to Paris when she was 20 and is married to the arrogant, unfaithful Bertrand Tézac, with whom she has an 11-year-old daughter. Julia writes for an American magazine and her editor assigns her to cover the 60th anniversary of the Vél’ d’Hiv’ roundups. Julia soon learns that the apartment she and Bertrand plan to move into was acquired by Bertrand’s family when its Jewish occupants were dispossessed and deported 60 years before. She resolves to find out what happened to the former occupants: Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski, parents of 10-year-old Sarah and four-year-old Michel. The more Julia discovers—especially about Sarah, the only member of the Starzynski family to survive—the more she uncovers about Bertrand’s family, about France and, finally, herself. Already translated into 15 languages, the novel is De Rosnay’s 10th (but her first written in English, her first language). It beautifully conveys Julia’s conflicting loyalties, and makes Sarah’s trials so riveting, her innocence so absorbing, that the book is hard to put down. ~ Publisher’s Weekly
About the Author
Tatiana de Rosnay was born in the suburbs of Paris and is of English, French and Russian descent. She is the author of nine French novels. She also writes for French ELLE, and is a literary critic for Psychologies magazine. Tatiana de Rosnay is married and has two children. Sarah’s Key is her first novel written in her mother tongue, English.
Absolutely haunting. Those are the only words I can use to describe this novel. I’ve read a few Holocaust based novels and each time I’ve been left feeling numb but this one was different because it is the story of a child told from the point of view of a reporter with a startling connection to the story.
Bouncing back and forth between the past (Sarah’s story) and the present (Julia’s story), de Rosnay did a wonderful job of tapping into my emotional center and making me care very deeply about all of the characters in the story (even Julia’s husband). This is not an easy read because of the topic but it’s worth the heartbreak and the tears.
I’ve taken classes on European history and not once do I ever remember reading about the roundup of Parisian Jews by the French police. I ended up doing supplemental reading to find out more about the roundup of French Jews and their fate ~ a very tragic story. This is a part of history that needs to be re~examined and studied so that the deaths of so many people (especially the heartbreaking deaths of so many children) will never be forgotten.
Note, if you’re in a book club, there are book group discussion questions at the end of the novel.
Disclosure: This review refers to the electronic version of this book. I did not receive any compensation for this review.