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Sarah's Key Audible – Unabridged

4.4 out of 5 stars 2,575 customer reviews

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By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on February 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
July 1942 marked a dark period in the history of France where thousands of Jewish families were rounded up and forcibly kept in the Velodrome d'Hiver. They were then sent off to transit camps in France such as Drancy, before being packed off to Auschwitz, a Nazi death camp. What is so unnerving about this whole incident is that the rounding up and mobilisation of Jews for deportation was done by the French authorities.

Based upon this seldom mentioned, little known piece of French history, author Tatiana de Rosnay has crafted a well-written novel that alternates between the past in 1942, and the present. The past centers around a 10 year old Jewish girl Sarah Strazynski who is forced to go to the Velodrome d'Hiver with her mother and father, innocently leaving behind a 4 year old brother Michel locked in a secret cupboard with the assurance that she would return to let him out when it was safe.

The present revolves around writer Julia Jarmond, a transplanted American who is married to a frenchman and finds herself being consumed by the story of the Vel d'Hiv incident. As she digs deeper, she uncovers dark secrets surrounding her husband's family which are connected to the deportations of Jews from France. As the truth emerges, the author deftly handles the question of guilt caused by supressed secrets and how the truth can sometimes not only bring about pain and disrupt the regularity of life, yet also have the ability to heal and move forwards into the future.

The method employed by the author, which alternates between the past [1942] and the present is an effective tool for it ties both periods together and brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the first half of this book, two stories interlace with each other in short alternating chapters. Sarah Starzynski, a ten-year-old Parisian girl born to Jewish parents, is captured in the round-up of June 16, 1942, and imprisoned with almost 10,000 others in an indoor cycling arena, the Vélodrome d'Hiver, awaiting transportation to Auschwitz. When the police arrive, she has just time to hide her younger brother in a concealed closet in their apartment, locking him in and promising to return. Sixty years later, Julia Jarmond, an American journalist married to a Frenchman, researching for a story on the "Vél d'Hiv," stumbles on the trail of Sarah's family, and becomes obsessed with trying to discover her fate. She is struck by the fact that the round-up and subsequent disposal was carried out, not by the Gestapo, but by ordinary French policemen, enabled by a citizenry that for the most part looked the other way. A coincidental discovery leads her to question the involvement of her husband's family at the time and to re-examine her own marriage.

Apart from this one coincidence that one has to grant for the sake of the novel, Tatiana de Rosnay mostly avoids melodrama, excessive sentiment, or plot surprises. Sarah's story may be merely a variant on the Holocaust narrative often told before, but its child's-eye viewpoint gives it a moving authenticity, and the short chapters keep it bearable. Especially touching are the glimpses of individual concern and kindness among the general indifference of the French people; the novel honors those unsung saints and heroes who put aside their fear to help in individual ways.
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9 Comments 212 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
The theme and historical context of this book is certainly compelling and the moral issues raised by the story, though familiar, are still intriguing. However, once the key elements of Sarah's story are revealed, the book looses steam and we are left with the banal life crisis facing our journalist narrator who comes off frequently as more than a little spineless, letting the people around her direct the flow of her thoughts and actions. The angst of modern life over-shadows past tragedy. Most of the author's characters seem stereotyped, merely cardboard cut-outs who are ill-suited to the task of explicating the difficult gray areas between good and evil. When Joshua, Julia's editor, points out to her the fact that she has left out one whole side of Sarah's difficult story, he might as well be describing this novel. It never really does address the issues of responsibility and moral culpability in any deep and meaningful way. When Sarah's voice disappears from the narrative, the book looses its psychological edge and Julia's subsequent quest seems to lack real purpose. The confrontations which do take place towards the end of the novel are not the one's a reader might be anticipating and ultimately, leave the reader feeling unsatisfied and disappointed. Read this book to learn more about the Jewish experience in occupied France but don't expect to be challenged--this book doesn't take readers anywhere near the true tragedy symbolized by Sarah's key.
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Format: Paperback
This book seems to have two different authors. The first writes a poignant, riveting story based on an important event in history. De Rosnay weaves a personal human tragedy into the horror of Vel'd'Hiv', smacking the reader in the face with man's inhumanity to man. The first half of the book and its conclusion were heartbreaking, physically painful, and I felt that De Rosnay was making the statement of her life. I will "Zakhor. Al Tiehkah/ Remember. Never Forget".

The second half of the book made me mad. I only kept reading because of Julia's relationship with her father-in-law. It was predictable, Hollywood schlock.

I wish the author would rewrite the book from page 160 without the superfluous characters, destinations... and without Julia's incessant, repetitious thought process. Unfortunately, De Rosnay dilutes a powerful story and loses her reader's respect; respect that I think was well earned in the first half of the book.
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