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4.4 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2011
Sarah's Key was something I'd wanted to read in my quest to get away from the dull, boring and always predictable 'romantic suspense'. I was taken straight back to the tragic history of the holocost which held my interest and made me want to read more. Sarah's account was always read with vigor but some of Julia's story lost me a bit in the middle. After skipping over some of Julia's account I was happy to have my interest piqued by both sides by of the end of the story. A pretty good read.
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This is a brilliantly and compelling portrait of occupied France during WW11. The plot follows the Starzinski family after the French police raided their apartment on July 16, 1942 and arrested ten year old Sarah and her parents during the Vel’d’Hiv Roundup. In a parallel plot Julia Jarmond, an American journalist is tasked to write an article to honour the 60th anniversary of this terrible day and the subsequent events that took place.

The story surrounds two time periods and alternates point of views throughout the book. The main story and action takes place in Paris and as the story progresses not only do we discover factual information but we also are on an emotional coaster ride.

Sarah’s story is told from the time of her arrest and intertwines with Julia’s quest to learn about the people that had been corralled at Vel’ d’Hiv during “Operation Spring Breeze”as it was known. Despite being 60 years apart they author excelled in drawing the two eras smoothly together. The roundup and deportation of some 11,000 French Jews to death camps is obviously a touchy subject and the author elegantly shines light by carefully detailing the facts about the true events.

Although a fiction, this is a worthwhile novel that approaches the Holocaust in a different way. In whole Sara’s story is a fast-read with tight and brisk chapters. The prose is fluid and strong and her story is engaging, informative and very emotional. She is a strong and adorable character. On the other hand those of Julia are light more chick-lit style and distract from the importance of the main story. I love Sarah’s part but Julia ruined my experience from the get-go. Her personal story was annoying, very predictable and quite cheesy. Her character is inconsistent and superficial IMO.

Having said this I nevertheless like this novel for its message and its frank look at a nation and people who for so long would not come to grip with its complicity in sending its own citizens to die in Nazi concentration camps.

I will definitely read more books by this author
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on December 29, 2011
The historical information about the French involvement in the holocaust was absolutely fascinating. I knew nothing of the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup before and appreciate de Rosnay's thorough research and presentation of detail. The jump between war time and present day was a clever way to present the two plot lines, though I found myself rushing through the Julia chapters in order to return to Sarah's story. I immediately fell in love with the beautifully created character of Sarah, though her story is tragic and heart-wrenching and I looked forward to the eventual joining of the two plot lines. While the writing itself was mediocre, I would recommend the story for its historical value and emotional journey.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2011
Very well written. The plot is so interesting it is hard to put the book down. You just can't wait to find out what happens next.
The only negative would be that the climax came a little early.
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on October 27, 2011
I enjoyed the authors use of present and past story lines converging together, while at the same time learning of an awful dirty secret in France's history. When I decided to investigate further this event during the world war 2, the actual facts are staggering and sad. This book begins with plenty of Sarah's story, but I found near the end, not enough was made of her story. I did really enjoy the book and thought it was well written. It also led me to reread a classic...Mila 18 by Leon Uris, a truly wonderful read as well.Sarah's KeySarah's Key
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on July 20, 2013
The past and the present were cleverly interwoven to set the stage for researching who Sarah was and the life she led.
It conjured up feelings of sadness, anger, anticipation, and melancholy.
The ending was poignant and was not anticipated.
I felt as if I was living the story and was sorry to see it end.
A very good read.
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on June 21, 2013
Then came the unbelievable ending. Kind of ruined it for me. I thought it was way too unrealistic for me. The first 3/4 I I was excited to read. Many a late night up with this one.
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on September 16, 2013
A heart wrenching story about the Holocaust and it's tragic effect on young children. I sad reminder of the effect racial genocide.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Ten year old Sirka's world is a happy one. She has loving parents and a fun-loving four year old brother whom she adores. But all that changes on the night of July 16, 1942 when German-occupied Paris is forced to give up it's Jewish families. Up to this point the Germans have only taken away the men of the family. However on this particular night they grab entire families. Sirka, not knowing what all of this means, thinks to save her little brother Michel by locking him into a secret cupboard with his favorite toy and a flashlight. It is her intention to come back for him after she and her family are released. She drops the key to the cupboard into her skirt pocket.

The next few weeks are a blur of confusion as Sirka and her family are taken to the Velodrome d'Hiver, a large sort of coliseum, where everyone is packed in without food, water, or any of life's basic needs. Within days many die and others become sick. At last the women and men are separated. The men are bussed to a camp from which they are taken by cattle car to Auschwitz where they are ultimately put to death. Sirka and her mother (who by now has retreated into her mind) are taken to a different camp where the children are separated from their mothers. The mothers, like the men before them, are soon herded into cattle cars and shipped to Auschwitz as well. The children will soon follow. But Sirka and another girl manage to escape the camp with the help of a French guard. Throughout this time Sirka has only one driving thought, to return to the family's home in Paris and release her brother who, she fears, has learned to hate her for not coming back sooner.

Fast forward sixty years to the anniversary of this awful event and meet Julia Jarmond, an American married to a Frenchman. She is a journalist who knew little to nothing about the Children of the Vel d'Hiv. Through her research she learns the story of Sirka (Susan). The story of this child soon consumes her and she is driven to learn all that she can. The facts, well-hidden from the world, lead her on a quest from France, to the United States, to Italy, and finally back to France. Julia learns that there are secrets her husband's family know but refuse to reveal; secrets that entwine their lives, and ultimately Julia's, with the life of Sirka (Susan).

This is a powerful story, one that taught me more than I've ever known about the cruelties of World War II. The young girl Sirka, whose story we follow, proves to be one of the strongest characters I have encountered in fiction. Although Julia, the American journalist, proves to be the catalyst for the story, I would have preferred to hear the story through Sirka's own voice (as in early chapters of the book). The personal mid-life crisis that Julia goes through adds little to the story. To be fair, though, Julia is a strong character in her own right.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I learned quite a bit more about a chapter in history that I had heretofore only heard bits and pieces about. Well researched; well written.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2012
In 1942 in Paris a ten year old girl, Sarah is rounded up with her parents by the French police and taken to Vel' d'Hiv'. Before she leaves she locks her little brother in a cupboard thinking she will be back soon to release him.

In a parallel story Julia Jarmond is asked to write a story about the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup for the 60th anniversary. She is determined to follow Sarah's footsteps.

Switching between the two stories the book tells us of Sarah's trials and ordeals and the horror of being a Jew in occupied France. Julia meanwhile, feels Sarah's anguish as she pursues her story and finds out how closely intertwined it is with her in-laws' story. Julia starts to question her own marriage and life. I did not really empathize with Julia and found while Zoe her daughter seemed to be so mature it was almost unreal.

I did not know about the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup but I did know about how the French do not want to discuss any of their 'ugly' part in WWII. Interestingly, I recently picked up A Thread of Grace By Mary Doria Russell which is about Jews in occupied Italy and how they were hidden. Two authors, similiar subjects and completely different treatments. As much as the French were shown to be brutal the Italians are shown to have some sympathy.


I would never have continued living in an apartment where the body of a little boy had been found. I may not have had the courage to stand up to the brutality and even might have overlooked how I got the apartment but to continue to live there. UGH!!!
One never knows until one is in that situation how one will react. I could always hope I would stand up and be counted.
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