“Who had decided this, and what for?”

I just finished reading Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.  While Rosnay’s writing style didn’t blow me away, the story and the structure of the novel made it worth reading.  The chapters of the book are each very short – I usually call these books “airplane” books.

For about half of the book, the chapters alternate between a ten-year old Jewish girl in France, Sarah and an American journalist living in Paris in the present day, Julia.  In July of 1942, Sarah is rounded up with her family and taken to a detainment camp in France where they would eventually be shipped off to Auschwitz.  When the French police come to get her family, she locks her four-year old brother in a secret cupboard promising him she will be back.  In the present day, Julia is writing a story about the “round up” in Paris during the war.  She also happens to be moving in to the same apartment Sarah and her family were forced out of.

Sarah and Julia’s stories soon connect.  As Julia’s marriage falls apart, she begins to unravel the horror of what Sarah and her family went through.  Sarah’s secret connects to secrets of Julia’s family.  These secrets are revealed half-way through the novel, making the second half a little anti-climactic.

One aspect of de Rosnay’s writing that was slightly irritating was her insistance on her characters continually asking questions (to the reader, I guess) that didn’t need to be asked.  However, when Sarah begins to realize what is happening to her and her family and why, she asks a powerfully understated question “Who had decided this, and what for?”.


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