December 09, 2008

Review: Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key
by Tatiana De Rosnay

Sarah Starzynski was only ten years old when the French police pounded on her door to take her Jewish family away in the Vel d'Hiv round up that took place in Paris in July 1942. Thousands of men, women, and children were crowded into inhumane conditions in a stadium before being shipped to a camp while they awaited the cattle cars that would take them to Auschwitz for extermination. When the police came for them she locked her brother in a hidden cupboard in their bedroom, promising to return to let him out later. She couldn't know that she wasn't returning.

But Sarah's tale doesn't end there. In 2002, Julia Jarmond, an American journalist writing an article about Vel d'Hiv, is touched personally by Sarah's story. She is unable to get it out of her head. It intertwines with her own life, now falling apart. The obsession to find Sarah to tell her that she has not been forgotten takes over her life and gives it new purpose.

I promised a one word review so here you go: MELODRAMATIC. The author can write but she tries too hard to bring the reader to tears. The key to good fiction is to make it seem effortless and this wasn't. Sarah's story was sorrowful enough on its own. It didn't need the extra shoves toward the tissue box. It distracted me from the story.

Also, other than Sarah, none of the characters are likable or believable. If the book had only been about Sarah, without the modern story intruding, it would have been a better story but it would have been much smaller, cutting the book down from it's current 300 pages to possibly only 100 or so.

Despite its flaws I liked the book, mostly(I didn't like the part dealing with abortion). It's a good story about a catastrophe that is overlooked in the annuls of history. And the author's point is Let us never forget. After reading Sarah's Key, I never will.

Buy this book at Amazon.

10 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I have this in my TBR pile - thanks for the review.

Colleen said...

I liked this book more than you (I suspect), but agree that I would have been perfectly happy if the book had been all about Sarah- Julia's story just never really pulled me in...

My review is posted here.

Jeane said...

I'm glad to know of its flaws, but still it sounds quite compelling. This one's going on my TBR.

J.Danger said...

This one is getting added to my TBR pile pronto!

Petunia said...

I'm glad to know that my review didn't come across as too negative. Enjoy everyone.

Jen said...

I agree with your review. I recieved and reviewed Sarah's Key around August/September and could not believe how many people started recieving and loving the book.
My impressions were basically the same as yours and it's good to know I'm not the only one to feel that way.

Ania said...

Good review! I'm a bit torn - I hate tearjerkers and I feel like I've read as many Holocaust books as I really need to, but this book still sounds appealing. So I guess I will neither look out for it, nor avoid it if it falls into my hands ;)

Tara said...

Well, I did like this quite a bit, but because of Sarah's story. I wasn't so crazy about Julia either. My review basically says that. The author actually contacted me in a very friendly way thanking me for reviewing her book, so I have an all-around good feeling about it.

Marie said...

I didn't care for the book either. I liked Sarah's story a lot but I don't think Julia even needed to be there at all. Unlike some of your other respondents, I was not contacted by the author but no surprise since I gave a somewhat negative review! :-)

Stephanie said...

This just isn't great literary fiction--it has a good plot, some memorable characters, but nothing that elevates it beyond a good historical fiction story.