Who Needs the NYT Book Review?

Not you, that’s for sure. You have me.

I asked a friend who is a member of a book club what I should read next. She recommended Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. (Side note: I’m extremely jealous of anyone involved in a book club. I’ve thought about starting one myself but I can’t figure out how I’d set that up.)

When I was younger, I read everything about World War II and the Holocaust that I could get my hands on. Diary of a Young Girl, Eva’s Story, Night, Schindler’s List, The Girl with the White Flag… I couldn’t get enough. Call it Schadenfreude if you want; I just can’t fathom what it would be like to be put in that situation. Where the government hates you for what you believe, where you can be completely dehumanized, torn from your family, beaten, broken, and treated worse than, jeez, I don’t even know what. To go through that is devastating. To survive is just incomprehensible. I think as much as I read about World War II, I’m just never going to understand it. So you know what? Don’t call it Schadenfreude. No one’s happy about this.

Sarah’s Key focuses on the rounding up, imprisonment and execution of French Jews in 1942. If you’re thinking, “What imprisonment of French Jews?” you’re not alone. It seems that this “incident” was swept under the rug until President Jacques Chirac apologized for it in 1995. Apparently of the 42,000 French Jews sent to Auschwitz in 1942, only 811 survived. I did the math. That’s almost 2%.

The story centers around Julia, an American journalist living in Paris, who is assigned an article on the 60th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv, named for the arena that the French Jews were brought to when they were arrested by French police in the middle of the night. It was from there that they were brought to internment camps and then, eventually, Auschwitz. Julia becomes enthralled by the story and by its cover up in the aftermath. Upon further digging, she realizes that her family’s apartment was only available after a Jewish family was taken from it that night. She becomes obsessed with that family and their tragic story.

Tangled in Julia’s story is the story of the little girl who lived in the apartment. This book is a twofer. You get the first hand narrative of being woken by the police, crammed in the Vel d’Hiv for 6 days and the internment. You also get the horror of a person discovering this event for the first time, 60 years later, and the havoc it wreaks on her life. She learns things about her in-laws and herself that draw her closer to some and apart from others.

This story is well-written. It’s one of those books where you know the author worked really hard to make it come out just right. I don’t want to spoil it. Just read it and find out!

About Tara Salvi

I'm a 30 year old woman living and working in the 'burbs.
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