by Tatiana de Rosnay
5 stars + heart
On the morning of July 16, 1942 Sirka/Sarah Starzynsky was roughly woken and told that she must leave the only home she had ever known. Her brother, only four at the time, was terrified and refused to come out of their room. Thinking that she would be back, she locked him in hidden cupboard where they frequently played. How was she to know or understand the tragic events that were about unfold.
Julia Jarmond is an American journalist living in Paris. For the past ten years she has been married to Bertrand, a dynamic man whom everyone can't help but gravitate towards. When her boss assigns her an article about the 60th anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv, she is at a loss. She's never even heard of it. Yet the more she learns the more emotionally invested she becomes. Her husband tells her that no one cares and it's ancient history, but she can't forget the children. What she eventually learns has far-reaching consequences and forever changes her life.
A lot of people write books on the Holocaust. That's to be expected. The crimes committed under the Nazi regime are nothing short of horrific. The stories of those most impacted by them deserve to be told. No, they don't just deserve to be told. These haunting tales beg to retold over and over again, because no matter how many times you hear them, the horror never diminishes. They serve as memorials, lessons, and reminders of just what we as humans are capable of. Sometimes those who choose to put these stories down on paper are successful, sometimes they are not. Sarah's Key is not just successful. It's a vivid portrait of one of the most chilling crimes committed during the Nazi occupation of France, only this time it was the French committing the atrocity, leading to the deaths of nearly 10,000 Jews, most of them children.
Tatiana de Rosnay interweaves the stories of Sarah and Julia seamlessly. She writes the story in a straightforward manner, no flowery prose or metaphors to hide it behind. This simplicity really works for the novel. Being overly descriptive and wordy would have detracted from the story, made it easier to distance yourself from the brutality of what happened. If the author's goal was to horrify and numb you, she accomplished that brilliantly. If it was to educate you, share the story of an event that the French have tried for decades to forget, she accomplished that brilliantly as well. If it was to elicit a strong emotional response from her readers, again she was brilliant. I was crying by page nine and continued to cry as each new piece of the puzzle was revealed. There is nothing more that I can say other than to ask you to please, please read this incredibly moving, touching, and yes horrifying novel. You won't be disappointed.