Five stars are not nearly sufficient to describe this most compelling read. By times, the story is so heart-rendering that one simply must put the book down and take a break. It is the story of a young girl, Sarah, and her family during the "French Roundup" of the Jewish people living in France during World War II. As the chapters unfold, a modern-day couple enter the scene and there is a second story to be told.
Apart from the plot and well-developed characters, an additional plus to the book is the short chapters. Written as a reflection on Sarah's childhood trials and tribulations, the chapters alternate from war time years of the early 40's to modern day. The alternate modern day chapters give a pleasant break to the attrocities committed during war time. Sarah's childhood and imprisonment in a concentration camp, the brother she left behind, and the loss of her parents are very painful parts of the book to read. The author has a unique writing style; the reader cannot help but feel all the emotion and chaos as if one was "living the reality" of this horrendous period in time.
The knowledge gained from "Sarah's Key" is that no matter how challenging our world is today, (yes, war still goes on and it is not a perfect world,) we should appreciate the freedom we do have and cherish each day. May there never be another holocaust, and may we learn to respect each other's values, religions, cultures and lifestyles so the world may live in peace and harmony. This book is most highly recommended. Also recommended is "Those Who Save Us" by Jenna Blum.
The book's historical story line was very interesting of the treatment of French Jews during the Holocaust. I enjoyed this part very much and often had a hard time reading how horrible the French police were at rounding up victims. As someone who has studied the Holocaust extensively I was shocked to discover that I knew nothing of Veladrome in France and what happened during the Holocaust. This part of the novel was well researched and constructed and it was interesting to see it through the eyes of a child. However, the "modern" story line of the main character was rather dull, predicable and cliche. It was step above a Danielle Steel novel. This part was rather disappointing and held little interest to me.
I couldn't wait to start reading this book as I had heard so many great reviews from friends and colleagues. It was such a disappointment. The historical story of Sarah is interesting. Learning about the devastating conditions and extreme cruelty that occurred during the Vel d'Hiv round up was an education and eye-opener. However, the modern day tale of the journalist researching the events in July, 1942, was a complete waste of pages. As someone else mentioned, it's written like a bad romance novel. This book would be so much better if the author had stuck to telling Sarah's story and left out the rest. I struggled to finish the book once Sarah's story was told.
This is the sort of book that makes an up and coming author think: "wow, I just need to find an obscure and terrible part of history and make up some really crappy drama and fake romance and get published!". Two story lines that meet at a predictable and poor taste conclusion. I bought this because I participated in a book club, and it is the benchmark book by which the other terrible novels were measured. "Hey guys, at least we aren't reading Sarah's Key again!".
I absolutely adored reading this book. The book delves into a black time in Parisian history that while I am well versed in history I had no idea happened. I was actually left questioning why this topic isn't covered in school. I had an absolutely amazing Comp Civ teacher in school who pushed the boundaries on what he taught his students, but yet this was not included in our learning. His theory was that it was his responsibility to teach us as much about the past injustices inflicted on innocent people that history wouldn't repeat itself.
Not only does this book tell a dark story, it also tells a story of hope. Those who risked their lives to do everything they could to make the lives of these Jewish children should be an inspiration to us all.
One piece of advise, make sure that you have an extended block of time available to sit down at read Sarah's key, because if you're like me you'll read the entire novel in one sitting, and then head to the computer to read more.
"Sarah's Key" centers on the shameful Vel' d'Hiv roundup of Jewish families in Paris by their compatriots, the memory of which has been collectively suppressed by the French people. Unfortunately the fictional part of this story fails to live up to the strength of the historical elements and is instead filled uninteresting, unbelievable, or unlikeable characters in contrived situations.
The historical facts in this story deserve telling, and I would suggest that you take a pass on this book and find a work of non-fiction on this topic instead except there don't seem to be any. For that reason alone this book may be worth your time.
Amazon has never steered me wrong when it comes to great books... and Sarah's key is no exception. I have been moved to tears on numerous occasions while reading this book. It is unbeliveably powerful, haunting, and at the same time has such joyful moments they also bring a tear to your eyes. You feel so strongly for Sarah and her poor unfortunate little brother. These characters come alive with each page. I had not known of the Vel d'hiv previously and now that I do I want to go to Paris and find the plaques. This awful tradgey should be talked about and remembered so something like this doesn't happen again. I know Sarah and her family is fictious, however what they endured is accurately portrayed in this novel. It is coming up to the 70th anniversary of the Vel d'hiv roundup. Everyone should read this book and remember.