Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Book Review: Sarah's Key

I just read Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. I loved it, despite it at times being gut-wrenching and devastatingly sad. The plot centers around a journalist who discovers a personal connection to a family that was rounded up during the Vel d' Hiv in 1942 during the German occupation of France.

A young girl, Sarah, locks her 4 year old brother in a cupboard and takes the key with her, thinking she is keeping him safe when she and her parents are taken by the French police to a concentration camp. She thinks there is some mistake and that she will be able to return the next day and free her brother. The parents are shipped off to Auschwitz; Sarah ends up returning but much too late and what follows is the history of a life and the lives of those tangentially connected forever altered. I don't want to delve too much into the plot because I would more than likely give too much away.

This book was wonderful, sad, terrifying, and touching. It was especially vivid to me because when in Germany I visited the Dachau concentration camps. I still have incredibly vivid memories of the gas chambers where parents thought they were going to take showers with their children. I have near perfect recollection of the huge ovens used to incinerate the bodies. Walking through that concentration camp was haunting and surreal. I just could not fathom how humans could do such a horrible thing to other humans. I still have a very difficult time understanding such hatred and depravity. So, as I read much of this book it is Dachau that I had envisioned in my mind and for me that made it all the more devastating.

While much of this book is fictional, the events of the Vel d' Hiv are historically accurate. I will admit that I had never heard of this prior to reading this book. It is rarely talked about; a shameful part of France's past, one they don't like to relive. This book serves as a reminder that we must never forget.

Has anyone else read this? If so, what did you think? Are you reading anything else of interest right now?

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