Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Review: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
My thoughts:
I have had Sarah’s Key recommended to me by several friends, and so I actually went to a bookstore to buy a copy. (This is not something I do often, I'm usually a library kind of girl.) For some reason it ended up sitting in my bookshelf for a couple of months, but then yesterday I was finally out of library books and brought Sarah’s Key to work with me. Luckily the kids decided that yesterday was a good day for a 3,5 hour long nap; perfect for reading.

I love that Sarah’s Key tells a little known story from the Holocaust, of how the French police and authorities arrested over 13 000 jews during two nights in a raid code named “Operation Spring Breeze”. Out of these 13 000, 5800 were women and over 4000 were children, and they were all eventually sent to Auschwitz for execution. The youngest child sent to Auschwitz was only 18 months old. For decades after World War II the French government tried to pretend this never happened, until Jacques Chirac in 1995 finally gave a public speech acknowledging it, fifty-three years after the roundup.

Sarah’s Key is incredibly well written, and I was completely lost in the story from the first chapter. The language is simple and on the spot, and especially the chapters about Sarah have such a raw feeling to them that I found myself crying more than once. There were times when I was very annoyed with Julia; why did she have to keep digging in things better left forgotten? But by the end it all came together, and it was really the only way it could have ended.

The cover:
It's pretty, but I don't love it. I know this is picking at details here, but I wish the children on the cover had been ten and four years-old like Sarah and her brother, instead of looking so close in age. But that's just me being picky.

My rating of this book:

Want a second opinion? Check out these reviews from some of my book blogging friends:

Want to know more?
Add Sarah's Key to your Goodreads wishlist
Visit Tatiana de Rosnay's website
Follow Tatiana on Twitter

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Published: September 30 2008
Pages (paperback): 293
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN: 0312370849 (ISBN13: 9780312370848
Full disclosure: Purchased at my local indie bookstore

This book can be purchased from a number of local retailers and online book stores such as Amazon or The Book Depository (I am not an affiliate of either). The latter store has free shipping to about 100 countries.


  1. I am sure I have read a different book by this author but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. Going to have to investigate now.

  2. Sounds heart wrenching. I like the idea of the journalist revisiting the events of this family's ordeal and uncovering the truths of the day.

  3. This is one of the books that "everybody" recommends, but I cannot at all find the enthusiasm to read it! It's rather peculiar! Maybe because I've already had my "Second-World-War-Year many years ago? Or maybe because my High School teacher was messing on and on about us reading a lot of litterature about the subject? I think I just have to conclude with - this is probably a very well written book! Read it! For me! :-))

  4. This one has been on my shelf for a while too and I haven't gotten around to it yet. I have yet to see a bad review of it though. It sounds like something I would enjoy. Great review!

    Xpresso Reads

  5. I loved this book. It was nice to see a different perspective of the war. I read this book extremely fast and like you too I remember crying in multiple places.

  6. I would really like to read this one, I have head such good things

  7. You've put me over the edge! I'm finally going to read this one, and all my friends will be sooo happy! LOL Like you, I've had it on my shelves, but the siren never sang to me about it. Thanks for a good, solid review.
    Love your blog! Haven't be by in a while, so it's great to see. Come see me when you can spare a moment!

  8. Tatiana Rosnay's book, Sarah's Key, is the story of the 1942 Vel d'Hiv roundup of the Jews in Paris, as seen through the eyes of eleven year old Sarah, a French Jew. It is also the story of Julia Jarmond, a journalist living in Paris in 2002 and writing the story about the roundup for a magazine, on the sixtieth anniversary of the event. The two plot lines take turns, one short chapter at a time, and twine together nicely to conclusion.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts =)