Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Reflection on Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Spoiler Rating: 2/5 Nothing you won't learn by reading the back of the book.

Sarah's Key is a wonderful, uplifting, heartbreaking novel about a woman's quest to find a survivor of the Vel d'Hiv roundup of 1942 in Paris. (Click here to purchase the book from Barnes & Noble or to read a synopsis.) 

If Vel d'Hiv rings no bells for you, you're not alone. It was the first time I had ever heard of France's active involvement in one of the most horrifying events in history: the Holocaust. It was also the first time that American journalist, Julia Jarmond, fully grasped the horror of the events Paris during 1942. She soon becomes consumed by her connection to one of the Vel d'Hiv survivors, Sarah Starzynski, and embarks on a journey to find her.

It was very difficult for me to read some parts knowing that even though this is a novel, what Sarah went through is what thousands of Parisian Jews experienced that year. It is through stories like this that I begin to question our humanity, both then, in the actions of French soldiers and the inactions of French citizens, and now, in our ignorance and indifference of and towards the events of that year. It seems like an episode of T w i l i g h t  Z o n e -thousands of people murdered and, less than a century later, forgotten. Maybe I am being unfair; surely some people remember. One thing is for sure, the silence of the victims is deafening. But alas, I have strayed from the book.

I found myself asking "Why?" many times throughout this book. (If you decide to read it, you'll see exactly why.) Why are some consumed with the need to know while others turn a blind eye and are content with ignorance? Why do we make the choices we do? 
Julia asks a lot of "why" questions, too. Fortunately for her, she gets a lot of answers. The beauty of everything is that in searching for Sarah, Julia finds herself. I wish all tragedies led to salvation, if only a few decades too late.

From Sarah's Key, I learned that just because you come out of something alive, it doesn't mean you survived; just because you escaped, it doesn't mean you are free. It reminded me how delicate the healing process is; it requires time, love, and whole-hearted acceptance from the ones you love, among other things.
Overall, I highly recommend it. There is something in this book for everyone whether it's healing, forgiveness, understanding, or like Julia, meaning.

1 comment:

  1. It had some interesting history about Jews in France during WWII that I was never aware of. That part of the story was interesting, but it hops between the 40's and modern day. The modern day plot was a little depressing. The main character has a husband that's a bit of a jerk, and I found it hard to get through her parts of the novel.


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