Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup, but n...
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Told from two different perspectives, Sarah's Key is a story of what happened during the Vel' d'Hiv roundup in France in 1942. This book is told by Sarah, a little Jewish girl that was taken during the roundup, and Julia, a journalist that was assigned the Vel' d'Hiv as an article to be released for the sixtieth commemoration (2002). Sarah locked her brother in their secret cabinet before her and her parents were taken away by the French Police and carries the key in her pocket during her whole journey. Julia begins research and finds that the apartment she will soon be living in was the same apartment that Sarah lived in. She obsesses over Sarah and what her story was, finding the tragic end to her parents in the concentration camp, her little brother dying of hunger in the cupboard, what happened to her after. As Julia and Sarah's lives intertwine, Julia's life begins to crumble before her eyes. She becomes pregnant after so many failures with a child her husband does not want and learns a some of Sarah's story from her father in law that was a secret for sixty years. Julia continues to trace Sarah's story to the end, even though it breaks apart her marriage, and she is forced to care for Zoe and her unborn child alone. In the end, Julia's husband leaves her for the woman that he had been having an affair with, Zoe, Julia, and the new baby, named Sarah, move to New York. Julia and William, Sarah's son, meet in the end after she had told him what actually happened to his mother and end up together.
The theme of this story is loss of innocence and the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup of 1942. The Vel' d'Hiv' roundup of 1942 is a forgotten event in history. "From where the girl sat, she could see the dislocated body of the woman, the bloody skull of the child, sliced open like a ripe tomato" (de Rosnay 33). This shows a young child seeing death during such a hard time for the Jewish people during the war. Sarah experienced hunger, loss, and much fear during her journey, but Julia lost her innocence as well. She found out many of her husband's family and while everything unraveled, so did her marriage. "Yes, Vel' d'Hiv', Drancy, and all the transit camps, those antechambers of death, were organized, run, and guarded by Frenchmen" (de Rosnay 185). This shows that the French did take part in this tragic event and throughout the book the author uncovers the truth about what happened to the Jews in France at this time in the war.
I think that this was an amazing book. It may be fictional, but describes a historical event that is not usually talked about in history class and is an important event to know about. A minor theme that I picked up in this book is to follow your heart. Both characters depend on themselves to make decisions. Julia decides to keep her baby even though it will end her marriage, to continue to research after she is discouraged by her husband and his father, and to follow the story to the end like any good person/journalist should do. Sarah makes decisions on her own because she cannot depend on her in shock mother and her missing father. She decides to go back to her apartment in Paris for her brother, just to get closure of his death. This story is very sad, but the author adds different events to help lighten the load. Unfortunately, besides what happens to Julia and her daughters in the end of the book, all turns out the worst way possible. The story is very realistic and keeps the reader motivated to learn what happens to Sarah and Julia in the end. This tells of a historical event in a fictional way that is very interesting.