Sarah’s Key is an extremely popular book right now. I was able to borrow it from a friend, a good thing since I was number 249 in the queue for borrowing it from my library!
Julia Jarmond is an American journalist living in Paris in 2002. She is assigned to write about the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Velodrome d’Hiver roundup. She had never heard of this infamous incident in which Parisian Jews were arrested by French police under the direction of the Nazi occupiers. Entire families were held for days in mid-summer in the Velodrome d’Hiver arena without food, water, or bathroom facilities. Those that survived were then brought to temporary camps in the Parisian suburbs before being shipped to Auschwitz. Over 13,000 people were held in the Vel’ d’Hiv’. About 400 survived the war.
In 1942, Sarah is a ten year old girl who is arrested along with her parents and brought to the Vel’ d’Hiv’. In an effort to protect her four year brother, Michel, and believing they will only be gone a few hours, Sarah locks Michel in a hidden cupboard in their bedroom. She slips the key in her pocket as her family is escorted out of their home. In the ensuing weeks, Sarah is only concerned with rescuing her beloved brother.
As Julia investigates the roundup, she discovers a surprising connection between her French in-laws and this notorious incident. This only piques her curiosity, and she tries to learn of Sarah’s fate.
Sarah’s Key is a bit confusing at first. The earlier chapters in the book alternate between Julia’s and Sarah’s stories, so there is a lack of continuity which left me unsatisfied as I was anxious for each story to continue, particularly Sarah’s. This is a minor distraction in an otherwise excellent book. The true importance of this book, I think, is the way it highlights a tragic and nearly forgotten piece of modern history.
Published in hardcover-St. Martin’s Press-2007
Softcover edition-St. Martin’s Press-2007