There’s no denying that the subject of this book is disturbing and tragic. In 1942, on the orders of the Germans, 4500 Parisian police rounded up almost 13,000 French Jews, almost one third of them children, and herded many of them into the Vel’ d’Hiv’, a stadium used for bicycle races. After being held there for days in cramped conditions with no food or water, they were transferred to prison camps in the suburbs of Paris where parents and children were separated, then sent on to Auschwitz. The Germans nicknamed the project “Operation Spring Wind.”
Sarah’s Key follows the story of Sarah, her parents, and her four year old brother, Michel. In a second (but related) storyline, we are in modern day Paris following Julia Jarmond, a journalist, as she researches the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup for a magazine article and discovers long-hidden family secrets that tie her to the tragedy. The story is compelling as seen through the eyes of 10 year old Sarah, but when her voice disappears midway through the book, the story becomes bogged down with the emphasis on Julia, her marital problems and her feelings of guilt. The neatly tied up (happily ever after?) ending was a bit disappointing as well. For a much more compelling and detailed description of the horrors faced by the Jews during the Holocaust, try Elie Wiesel’s Night.