Monday, September 20, 2010

A Book Review: Sarah's Key



{source: Google}

I rarely ever write about a given prompt from the writing blog but today, I feel moved to do so. Please find the prompt here:

I run the book club at work and for the most part, our residents pick what they want to read. I will give them a few options to chose from, based on their interests and suggestions, and we go from there. We have had Sarah's Key on our radar for some time now and it was suggested by one of our dearest residents who recently passed away. It was quite fitting for us to start the book a few weeks ago and even though the title states it's a review, well, it's a review of half the book. I'm not done yet.

Our book club meets once a week and per their request, I give them an assignment to read to. This book is just under 300 pages so we are reading 100 pages each week. Half of the residents reading it are finished but I have made a deal with myself not to finish a book so that I won't give anything away on accident. Now if a resident spills the beans, that's on them. However, that rarely happens.

I am about 120 pages into this book and it took me almost two weeks to get through the first 50. This book is one of the saddest I have ever read, yet very well written and quite an account of a drastic part of our history. When I say OUR, I mean the world. Not the USA. This piece of history takes place in Paris, France on July 16, 1942. Try googling that date and you will see what pops up right away: the Vel d' Hiv Roundup. I had never learned about this piece of tragic history while in high school. I had heard of the term, but I had no clue as to what that meant, what the history of it was. One of my residents is 94 years old, born and raised in the USA, lived through both World Wars and not until he read this book, a piece of fiction based on historical facts, had he ever heard of it. WOW, just WOW! I mean really. That is amazing that he had never heard of this at his age.

**Caution: I suppose this is where a "spoiler alert" is necessary, but in all honesty, there is nothing to spoil as this is historical fiction.**

The novel is written in quite a unique fashion. One chapter is in 3rd person accounting for a young girls experience in 1942 while the other is from the point of view of a 45 year old journalist in 2002, given the assignment to write about the 60th anniversary of the Vel d' Hiv. The chapters bounce back and fourth and it makes me wonder, which was written first? Were they written together? And why the EFF is this the first time I am reading about this?! The girl, who is unnamed for quite some time in the beginning of the novel, is woken from a deep sleep as her little family is being arrested on the early morning of July 16th. She is only 10 years old and panics. She locks her little brother in a special hiding space with water and a flash light, promising to return soon. Her father is no where to be found, but later joins her and her mother on the long walk and bus ride to the Vel d' Hiv. This used to be a huge stadium for bike races and now, was the living space for nearly 13,000 people, 4,000 of which were children. Jewish children.

As you can guess, this story is about a roundup of Jews in Paris, France. The major misconception is that these Jews were captured by Nazis when in fact Nazis only order the French police to arrest all of the Jews and what they did with them, how they treated them, was up to the police, not the Nazis.

As you can guess, this is a harrowing tale of a young girl all of ten, trying with all her might to get back to her brother. The journalist is also trying to find Sarah, the young girl. Her family has a special connection to her. I am just beginning to learn what that is and now that I have gotten past the hardest part of the book to read, I can hardly put it down.

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