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.Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.
I had never heard anything about the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup until reading Sarah's Key. I found myself crying after reading some of the chapters in this book as it is heartbreaking to read about what happens.
Tatiana de Rosnay is a gifted storyteller. I enjoyed reading the short chapters written with each one alternating between Sarah's life in 1942 as we see the world through her eyes as she endures the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup and Julia's present day life in 2002 as she researches the events of Vel' d'Hiv Roundup and Sarah's life.
The chapters continue to alternate between Sarah and Julia's lives until halfway through Sarah's Key, before the story solely shifts to Julia's life and her quest to find out what happens to Sarah.
Watch the following YouTube video, where Tatiana de Rosnay speaks with the Jewish Book Council about her novel Sarah's Key and why she wrote it.