Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key

4.3 704
by Tatiana de Rosnay

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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 not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Paris, May 2002: On Vel' d'Hiv's 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to

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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 not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Paris, May 2002: On Vel' d'Hiv's 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.

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Editorial Reviews

The View Joy Behar

A wonderful book.
South Florida Jewish Journal Rabbi Jack Riemer

A powerful novel… Tatiana de Rosnay has captured the insane world of the Holocaust and the efforts of the few good people who stood up against it in this work of fiction more effectively than has been done in many scholarly studies. It is a book that makes us sensitive to how much evil occurred and also to how much willingness to do good also existed in that world.
author of Welcome to Heavenly Heights Risa Miller

SARAH'S KEY unlocks the star crossed, heart thumping story of an American journalist in Paris and the 60-year-old secret that could destroy her marriage. This book will stay on your mind long after it's back on the shelf.
Augusten Burroughs

This is the shocking, profoundly moving and morally challenging story... It will haunt you, it will help to complete you… nothing short of miraculous.
Jenna Blum

Just when you thought you might have read about every horror of the Holocaust, a book will come along and shine a fierce light upon yet another haunting wrong. SARAH'S KEY is such a novel. In remarkably unsparing, unsentimental prose... through a lens so personal and intimate, it will make you cry--and remember.
Sacramento Bee

Exceptional, emotional, and compelling…
author of Borrowed Finery Paula Fox

A remarkable novel written with eloquence and empathy.
bestselling author of The Ex-Debutante Linda Francis Lee

A story of hearts broken, first by the past, then by family secrets, and the truth that begins to repair the pieces. A beautiful novel.
author of The Saturday Wife Naomi Ragen

This is a remarkable historical novel... it's a book that impresses itself upon one's heart and soul forever.
Sarah Galvin

Sarah's Key is told from both the perspective of an 10-year-old girl whose family is rounded up during the Vel D'Hiv in France in 1942 and an American who presently lives in Paris. The heartbreak is real, the love is true, and the need to find out how their two lives are connected made this one of my absolute favorites!
Diane's Books of Greenwich Diane Garrett

The Book Stall at Chestnut Court (Front Line Roberta

I was overwhelmed by a novel that I had missed when it first came our way--Sarah's Key. It is a page-turner about World War II, the Holocaust and contemporary Paris. I couldn't put it down.
Ginny Thompson

Just as gripping as The Diary of Anne Frank and Schindler's List.
Audrey Raclaw

Sarah's Key is the most compelling, gripping novel I've read in a long time. Loved everything about it.
Book Club Member Georgia Kelly

An incredible story, beautifully written. Could not put it down.
Book Club Member Barb Toslosky

I will remember this story…..I enjoyed the characters and learned something about this period that was not a popular tale.
Book Club Member Charlotte Hanebuth

Wonderfully written. Kept me on the edge of my seat every moment. An emotional journey. One of my favorite novels. Up there with the best- If walls could talk. An outstanding personalization of the horrors of the hococaust.
Barbara Mix

A beautifully written, poignant novel based on a shameful period in French history. A must read for all lovers of historical fiction.
Kathleen McCann

Totally excellent book. Read it in one day. The book made me aware of the French round up. I would like to know if Julia and William got involved.
Sue Sneary

Wonderfully written page turner. Such an interesting and mysterious story!
Kathleen Voight

Tatiana's ability to get me into the 'head' of her characters is phenomenal. I had such empathy for Julia and Sarah.
Beth Carpenter

The book is beautifully written - two stories that intersect in a Paris apartment. Sarah's love of her brother filled her life with guilt, overshadowing her life with sadness.
Carol Adams

Wonderfully written one woman's quest for the truth.
Publishers Weekly
In the summer of 1942, the French police arrested thousands of Jewish families and held them outside of Paris before shipping them off to Auschwitz. On the 60th anniversary of the roundups, an expatriate American journalist covering the atrocities discovers a personal connection—her apartment was formerly occupied by one such family. She resolves to find out what happened to Sarah, the 10-year-old daughter, who was the only family member to survive. The story is heart-wrenching, and Polly Stone gives an excellent performance, keeping a low-key tone through descriptions of horror that would elicit excessive dramatics from a less talented performer. Her characters are easy to differentiate, and her French accent is convincing. De Rosnay's novel is captivating, and the powerful narration gives it even greater impact. A St. Martin's hardcover. (June)
author of The Saturday Wife and The Covenant Naomi Ragen
This is a remarkable historical novel, a book which brings to light a disturbing and deliberately hidden aspect of French behavior towards Jews during World War II. Like Sophie's Choice, it's a book that impresses itself upon one's heart and soul forever.

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.68(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.81(d)
HL610L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

SARAH'S KEY (Chapter 1)

Paris, July 1942

The girl was the first to hear the loud pounding on the door. Her room was closest to the entrance of the apartment. At first, dazed with sleep, she thought it was her father, coming up from his hiding place in the cellar. He'd forgotten his keys, and was impatient because nobody had heard his first, timid knock. But then came the voices, strong and brutal in the silence of the night. Nothing to do with her father. "Police! Open up! Now!"

The pounding took up again, louder. It echoed to the marrow of her bones. Her younger brother, asleep in the next bed, stirred. "Police! Open up! Open up!" What time was it? She peered through the curtains. It was still dark outside.

She was afraid. She remembered the recent, hushed conversations she had overheard, late at night, when her parents thought she was asleep. She had crept up to the living room door and she had listened and watched from a little crack through the panel. Her father's nervous voice. Her mother's anxious face. They spoke their native tongue, which the girl understood, although she was not as fluent as them. Her father had whispered that times ahead would be difficult. That they would have to be brave and very careful. He pronounced strange, unknown words: "camps," "roundup, a big roundup," "early morning arrests," and the girl wondered what all of it meant. Her father had murmured that only the men were in danger, not the women, not the children, and that he would hide in the cellar every night.

He had explained to the girl in the morning that it would be safer if he slept downstairs, for a little while. Till "things got safe." What "things," exactly? thought the girl. What was "safe"? When would things be "safe" again? She wanted to find out what he had meant by "camp" and "roundup," but she worried about admitting she had eavesdropped on her parents, several times. So she had not dared ask him.

"Open up! Police!"

Had the police found Papa in the cellar, she asked herself. Was that why they were here, had the police come to take Papa to the places he had mentioned during those hushed midnight talks: the "camps," far away, out of the city?

The girl padded fast on silent feet to her mother's room, down the corridor. Her mother awoke the minute she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"It's the police, Maman," the girl whispered. "They're banging on the door."

Her mother swept her legs from under the sheets, brushed her hair out of her eyes. The girl thought she looked tired, old, much older than her thirty years.

"Have they come to take Papa away?" pleaded the girl, her hands on her mother's arms. "Have they come for him?"

The mother did not answer. Again the loud voices down the hallway. The mother swiftly put a dressing gown over her night dress, then took the girl by the hand and went to the door. Her hand was hot and clammy, like a child's, the girl thought.

"Yes?" the mother said timidly, without opening the latch.

A man's voice. He shouted her name.

"Yes, Monsieur, that is me," she answered. Her accent came out strong, almost harsh.

"Open up. Immediately. Police."

The mother put a hand to her throat and the girl noticed how pale she was. She seemed drained, frozen. As if she could no longer move. The girl had never seen such fear on her mother's face. She felt her mouth go dry with anguish.

The men banged again. The mother opened the door with clumsy, trembling fingers. The girl winced, expecting to see green-gray suits.

Two men stood there. One was a policeman, wearing his dark blue knee-length cape and a high, round cap. The other man wore a beige raincoat. He had a list in his hand. Once again, he said the woman's name. And the father's name. He spoke perfect French. Then we are safe, thought the girl. If they are French, and not German, we are not in danger. If they are French, they will not harm us.

The mother pulled her daughter close to her. The girl could feel the woman's heart beating through her dressing gown. She wanted to push her mother away. She wanted her mother to stand up straight and look at the men boldly, to stop cowering, to prevent her heart from beating like that, like a frightened animal's. She wanted her mother to be brave.

"My husband is . . . not here," stuttered the mother. "I don't know where he is. I don't know."

The man with the beige raincoat shoved his way into the apartment.

"Hurry up, Madame. You have ten minutes. Pack some clothes. Enough for a couple of days."

The mother did not move. She stared at the policeman. He was standing on the landing, his back to the door. He seemed indifferent, bored. She put a hand on his navy sleeve.

"Monsieur, please—," she began.

The policeman turned, brushing her hand away. A hard, blank expression in his eyes.

"You heard me. You are coming with us. Your daughter, too. Just do as you are told."

SARAH'S KEY Copyright © 2007 by Tatiana de Rosnay

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Sarah's Key 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 704 reviews.
Tidbitsofscott More than 1 year ago
In this book, Tatiana DeRosnay creates two parallel stories which eventually intersect and each completes the other. One story takes place in 1942 when a young Jewish girl and her family are rounded up by the French police who detain them before sending them to the Nazi gas chambers. The second story concerns a modern-day journalist who discovers the fact that the French turned Jews over to the Nazis and decides to write a story about it. The journalist has troubles of her own and her pursuit of the truth threatens her husband's family and her marriage. This is an engrossing story which is based on an actual incident and is one of the best books I've read in awhile. Profoundly moving.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bought this book in Ireland. What a wonderful but sad story - never knew France had this 'dirty little secret' the Vel d'Hiv roundup. Historically correct. Written from the perspective of a young girl, Sarah, and a journalist investigating the events. The story is inspiring and heart-wrenching, clearly identiying the impact the events had on Sarah, her family, her adopted family, her children, the journalist and her family. Didn't want to put it down. Disappointed her other books are not written in English. A must read.
Love2ReadVA More than 1 year ago
Sophie's Choice meets Bridges of Madison County... I'm surprised how positive the reviews of this book have been. I expected a lot and was disappointed. de Rosnay attempts to mix several genres,combining a work of historical fiction, a psychological profile, and a female midlife crisis/romance into one coherent read - but her attempt fails. Like a cheap TV-VCR combo - Sarah's Key ends up being a convenient and barely passable book that is ultimately not very satisfying on any of its individual merits. The two parallel story lines start out equally compelling, but the modern tale quickly unravels into melodrama. Substituting caricatures for characters, and trivializing the hard work and rewards that marriage provides - de Rosnay ends up diluting the historical importance of the subject of her novel with a sloppy and fantastical romance. Kudos to Sarah's Key for drawing attention to an underpublicized event in WWII. de Rosnay's recounting of events is very compelling - but like the main character's editor points out - the reported facts of the story leaves many unexposed and more interesting lines of investigation begging to be discovered, but left untouched here.
opinionminion More than 1 year ago
First of all, this was a very easy read. The author's writing style is very simple and with the way the chapters are set up every other page was only half filled, making the 300 page book feel like 150 instead. Every other chapter for the first half of the book was about war-torn France and Nazi death camps. The book was very educational in this sense on the Vel' d'Hiv', an event of which I was unaware until reading this book. I felt that this portion of the book was actual believable and I wished that more time was spend on the 11-year-old who was main character of this section. Every other chapter, however, was set in modern-day Paris from the point-of-view of a 45-year-old. Her so-called romantic life did not thrill me in the least and I found it an absolute bore. I don't know if it was lack of depth in all the characters or if it was the 45-year-old acting like a 17-year-old or what but I was almost frustrated by how juvenile the entire story was. It made the touching story from the 1940s that was happening on every other page seem less important, less sensitive, and less meaningful. I would have preferred a stronger protagonist, deeper characters, and more impressive writing from the author. If you end up liking this book, below are a couple of books I recommend that are easy to read and have uncomplicated storylines, much like this one.
julese More than 1 year ago
Awsome strong powerful, A great way to learn ,the travesty in France . The struggles of the Jews. Truly emotional, reviting .sad beautifuly writen. This author brings to life all the wrongs and you feel as though you new the people in this story . I have recomende this book to several people and friends who have read this agree .
SHARON39 More than 1 year ago
An American Journalist in Paris unlocks a multitude of secrets that will keep you completely enthralled and hungry for more with every turn of the page! A haunting masterpiece! Beautifully done Rosnay!! ..... Another exciting and compelling read I came across lately is EXPLOSION IN PARIS by Pirrung. If you enjoyed Sarah's Key, I think you will be completely captivated by this one, as I was. I also loved SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME.
bibliotek More than 1 year ago
I found this novel to be a hauntingly beautiful story. The primary subject is a heart-wrenching tale originating in Paris in 1942. The author provides haunting details of the French authorities' cooperation with the Nazis in facilitating the Holocaust as related to French citizens. The heartbreaking account of the events of 1942 are expertly juxtaposed with a contemporary tale of an American journalist in Paris. I loved the way the author alternated chapters, boucning back and forth between 1942 and the present. I thought that the details of the two stories were beautifully interwoven. This is, for the most part, a quite sad story, but was so beautifully written. It is definitely worth a read.
Irish_Nights More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the roughest subjects to read about: the Holocaust. The author's writing style is so smooth that as you're reading, you feel as if you're in the pages yourself. For the first half of the book or so, the plot switches back and forth between 1942 (the perspective of the little Jewish girl, Sarah) and 2005 (the perspective of Julia Tezac, a Parisian journalist researching the Vel' d'Hiz' roundup of French Jews). The struggle Sarah goes through is beyond our comprehension, though the author depicts it with a graphic truth. The story picks up the pace quickly as Julia uncovers many hidden secrets about this little Jewish girl named Sarah and the burden she carried with her. A rough journey through France but a memorable read that will keep you thinking even after you've finished the book, Sarah's Key is perfect if you enjoy historical fiction and don't mind the pages tugging at your heartstrings. Real and crisp, the author tells it like it was.
MMsMom More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and it's one that was difficult for me to put down...I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next.
KMTNJ More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up at random in the book store, drawn to the title and cover. Once I started reading I couldn't put it down. Well written and good change of time periods at chapter breaks. The emotions for all characters were brought to life and held you through to the end. A book I would recommend to read and to be shared.
flteacher4 More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. I wanted the story to continue on even when the book was over. Rosnay was able to bring two different yet connected storylines and twist them together into one. A captivating book that will tug at your heart!
puzzled66 More than 1 year ago
The writing caught me immediately, and the stories kept me captivated. I liked that I learned a bit of history at the same time. It has the moral dilemma Jodi Picault style along with the history mixing with today. How hard it must have been to live through those days.
BluebonnetTX More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy historical fiction that is very affecting, you will enjoy adding this WWI holocaust-related story to your list. It's hard to say it was an enjoyable read, but the plot was enticing and well-told. a very good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sarah's Key starts out pretty good, but after the initial chapter or two I found that I kind of lost interest. I could have completely done without the modern day character and her jerk of a husband and wish that the author had developed the story line of Sarah more fully. I was especially disappointed when she just completely abandoned her after the gruesome discovery in her former home in Paris. I would have liked to understand how she dealt with the death of her brother, and her attempt to start over in America. But, we had to learn about that (in very sketchy details) after the fact. Also, the ending was strange. Call me old fashioned, but I want "details" - not just an assumption of an outcome. Yes, it has a happy ending, but instead of fleshing it out, I felt that she just left me dangling (kind of like she did with Sarah). I wouldn't recommend the book to anyone.
AllOverTheBoard More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up while on a 3 hour delay at an airport. Before my flight left I was abourt 2/3 through with it. I know it has to be good writing for me to get this into a book this quickly. This is a fascinating, intermingling tale of a woman's struggles in her own marriage, her passion for the past; and a great lesson in some unknown history of WW II. Highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was well-written, incorporating historical events about which I (unfortunately) was unaware with very personal, believable stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sarah's Key is an incredible story that is both educational and gripping. Few Holocaust stories focus on the role of France during Hitler's regime, and I am impressed with the care the author took to be historically accurate. As a piece of historical fiction, this book will open the eyes of many. Sarah's Key is a story that remained with me long after I read the last page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have visited Paris. The hotel where my husband and I were staying was just a few yards away from a bridge over the Seine. There is a plaque on the bridge stating that this was the place where the Jews of Paris were held by the Nazi's during WWII.Velodrome d'Hiver. I never knew the background of the "roundup". In reading the book I realized that I had been to most of the places that the author described, while not really knowing it! Now, I will have to make another trip[ to Paris and pay homage to all the lives lost.
bookworm2694 More than 1 year ago
This book is the most depressing book I have ever read. Do not be deceived by the high ratings from other readers. This book combines the depressing nature of concentration camps and deaths of everyone the main character holds close. Do yourself a favor and do not read this book, the entire novel is filled with horror after horror in her life. The main character is also very unlikable, I understand that she has been through a lot of terrible things in her life but all she does is whine and be depressed the entire time. She pushes away everyone that tries to help her and get close to her. It is tedious to read the novel from her point of view. Do not read this book if you want a happy ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book based on reviews here... but I was very disappointed. It was dry, boring, and did not hold my interest. Wish I could have felt a connection with the characters, espcially since the subject matter was touching, but I could have cared less about them. Not worth the time to read.
MightyMeese More than 1 year ago
Sarah's Key was a book club choice and I'm so happy it was! By far, one of my favorite reads. I loved the author's style of bringing us back and forth from the past to the present and back to the past again. While never really graphic, the writers style presents us with aspects of the war many of us may not be familiar with -- particularly the role of the Parisians. You keep pulling for the characters until the very end. One of the few books that left me feeling sad after I turned the last page because it was over.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author tried to do too much with this book. Trying to fit the two stories together didn't work for me. The characters were either weak or stereotypes. And the writing was MELODRAMATIC!!! I felt like I was reading a cheap romance novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I learned historical facts that I didn't know. A wonderful story. Intense. Thought provoking.
BookClubReviewer More than 1 year ago
The majority of our book club members didn't know about the events in Paris 1942 so we were overwhelmingly appalled by the atrocities which occurred during the Vel d'Hiv round-up. The author's vivid descriptions of the conditions in the Vel D'Hiv reveal not only the horror but also the many human reactions (good and bad) of all the participants. Our book club had a lively discussion about the Vichy government, collaboration and on a more personal note, the personality traits and displays of character by Sarah's parents. AND ... we all agreed that the contemporary time story fell short and disappointed us in many ways. The appearance of Sara's son and Julia's connection to him were the last in a long line of trite and coincidental events that marred the contemporary time story. BUT ... if your book club is looking for a book that will spark discussion, read Sarah's Key.
DebsSweet More than 1 year ago
So well written -- tragic, and the the horror of this is that it captures the abomination of the Holocaust. This is a different kind of story - I promise you won't be disappointed. It's a 5 star book for sure.