Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sarah's Key

Is it important to remember the past?

Should horrific details of our heritage be submerged under notions of an idealized present?

Is it better to know or to forget the most gruesome aspects of our lives... and of our nation?

Tatiana De Rosnay, author of Sarah's Key, grapples with these questions. Sarah's Key describes the story of a young French Jewish girl who was detained by French Forces during the Vel' d' Hiv' roundup but was able to escape before being sent to Auschwitz in the 1940s.

De Rosnay creates a story centered on the notion of remembrance. After her escape, Sarah must live the rest of her life with memories of the roundup, losing her Mother and Father upon arrival at the detainment camp, and the dire consequences of hiding her brother in a small cupboard before leaving for Vel' d' Hiv'. De Rosnay expertly links Sarah's story to that of Julia Jarmond, a contemporary journalist researching the French state during the Holocaust.

De Rosnay shows how countries try to avoid discussions on negative aspects of their past, how a family's history impacts one's self-identity, and that repercussions of the Holocaust remain prominent even in the 21st century.

I found it very interesting to see a portrayal of France's remembrance of the Holocaust due to my own extensive university studies on Germany's remembrance of World War II from the 1940s to present day. Books alike to Sarah's Key attest to the symbolic importance of having historical events formally recognized by the state. Recognition creates the ability to further establish one's own identity and to once again feel a sense of community.


  1. I saw this book at the booksmith the other day and thought the plot looked really compelling. Thanks for sharing your review of it!

  2. Hello, I'm visiting from the Hop! I really wanted to like this book more. The Holocaust part of the story was horrific and well-written and I was grateful to learn more about the French round-up of the Jews. But, the modern-day part of the story I thought was not compelling. But I definitely agree that remembrance of these events is critical!

  3. I've been looking at this book for awhile, but a librarian once told me that it was far too sad to read. I'm guessing you wouldn't agree with that since it wasn't mentioned? Maybe I'll give it a shot after all... :)

  4. This book ~ characters and all ~ stayed with me for months and I bought the book for others and lent mine to my family. Everyone agreed that it's incredible. Tatiana de Rosnay is an astonishing writer and I wish all the books she's written in French would be translated for us.


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