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Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key

4.2 2694
by Tatiana de Rosnay, Polly Stone (Read by)

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

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)
From the Publisher

“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.” —Naomi Ragen, author of The Saturday Wife and The Covenant

“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.” —Risa Miller, author of Welcome to Heavenly Heights

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Macmillan Audio
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5.06(w) x 5.98(h) x 0.88(d)

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

Meet the Author

TATIANA DE ROSNAY was born in the suburbs of Paris and is of English, French and Russian descent. She is the author of nine French novels. She also writes for French ELLE, and is a literary critic for Psychologies magazine. Tatiana de Rosnay is married and has two children. SARAH'S KEY is her first novel written in her mother tongue, English.

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Sarah's Key 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2694 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It has been a long time since I read a book that truly made me weep. It is amazing to read about the 1942 Jewish roundups in France, known as the Vel d'Hiv. It is a part of history that has been buried. De Rosnay weaves a quite personal and believable fictional story about the character Sarah and her family with facts about the Vel d'Hiv atrocity. It is a very moving novel about something we should never accept nor forget. This is a book you cannot put down once you get started. Highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first, I found myself having difficulty putting this book down. The chapters were short, Julia’s mission clear, and Sarah’s storyline was gripping, fast-paced, and terribly tragic. However, after Sarah’s voice ends, so does the interest for me. Upon first reading, I thought that this book would be more about Sarah and her journey through the holocaust, focusing on her emotions, development, and grief. Rather, it was more about the life of Julia, the journalist, which I didn’t particularly care about. I was less interested in reading about Julia’s failed marriage and mid-life baby crisis. I felt more satisfaction in reading about Sarah’s life and the Vel d’Hiv round-up (of which I was previously, sadly unaware), and would have liked more on the aftermath of the war and its impact on Sarah and her family. I am glad to have read the book because of the historical significance of Vel d’Hiv. However, Julia’s story took up too much of the end, felt contrived, and was too predictable.
Deborah Puglisi More than 1 year ago
Heartwrenching at times but a great read. I really liked how she broke up the book between past and present.
Solitaireyqueen More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It was a great blend of fiction and history. Going back and forth from history to modern times kept me at the edge of my seat. It is a heartbreaking story, but there's no changing history. I found the characters appealing and the ending satisfying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was life changing
April_Showers_May_Flowers More than 1 year ago
This book was a personal approach to history, I could not put it down. I quickly became attached to the characters and the story became alive. The story is told from the past and present and intertwined perfectly.
Jaclyn Lozewski More than 1 year ago
One of the best books i have ever read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had hard time reading this book but yet could not put it down.It was sad and horrible what sarah and her family endured.i thought this was a great book and would recommend it.
SweetSandy More than 1 year ago
Absolutely loved this book from start to finish! I am not a fast reader by any means, but I could not put this book down, read it in 3 days.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book to be honest, it was a bit sad and dramatic. It had adventure and it showed an innocent girl. Its also has modern life. And its about family, death of loved ones, trust, MORE death, confusion, and mostly life through a little girls life and a middle aged women. This book will make you cry 100% and its also about how life isnt always fair. And how people judge you for being yourslelf and who you are. It reflects around WWll. Though to be honest. This book is not for everyone. This book is for people who have hearts. People who understand. And people who WANT to understand. And sadly. Not everyone does. This book will touch your life forver. I promise you. Its truley amazing. And you wont want it to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didnt feel like i could sympathize with the narrator, she was very selfish. I did enjoy the author's emotional retelling of the Vel d'Hiv roundup. That was good storytelling
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to like this book, but I found the characters to be shallow, situations resolved too easily, and I just didn't care.... I finished the book just to see if it might pick up, but it was just thoroughly disappointing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanted to stop reading but found i couldn't stop. I will be thinking about this book for a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Since I got my Nook, I've had more of an interest in books that I probably wouldn't read otherwise. This is historical fiction, based in France during World War 2. It's also set in the recent past. We learn about Sarah & her family during the German occupation of France, in a part of history that the books (at least none that I read) cover - the roundup of the French Jews in and around Paris. We also meet Julia, an American expat and her French husband who doesn't seem to pay very much attention to anything that doesn't revolve around him. The two storylines converge in a not-so-surprising climax; I saw it coming as the story progressed, but it was still had the WHAM! factor. There's a tragedy that crosses time, and redemption. The end of the story left me hanging a little, wanting to know "what happened next?!" but upon reflection, that was what the author wanted us to create for ourselves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was soo good After hearing so many good things about this book it did not disappoint loved it and recommand it to anyone you dont have to like war stories to like this book• so many emotions and not once did i feel i was wasting my time reading this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GREAT READ!!! Heart braking story that reminded me, people actually endured these horrors. Book was well researched and hard to put down. Recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As usual, the book is so much better than the movie. There were times where I didn't want to put the book down with tears rolling down my face. (don't worry...there are also happy moments) There are some parts of the book that get a little wordy but overall a wonderful read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put the book down dispite all the sadness! I felt connected to both Julia and Sarah! I felt sad for how Sarah's story ended and I hope that Julia gets happiness in the end because I'm not sure she really is... Still the book is wonderful and engrossing a must read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. I wanted more than anything to know what happened to Sarah. Her story was heart wrenching. I felt the story ended too abruptly. That is the only reason i gave this 4 stars instead of 5. I also found it strange that the French author painted the French characters in such a demeaning light. Especially since she goes on to say her own family is not that way. She really stuck to the sterotypical views of French and American people which i found a bit strange for her to later go back and try to dispel these sterotypes in her awknowledgements. I guess she does sort of rectify this in the end of the story but overall i found it strange a French author would paint her own people in such a haughty light. Anyway, overall the book was wonderful and emotional. I just would have wished for an extended ending to the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Several people recommended Sarah's Key to me; so I approached it with enthusiasm. However, it never quite lived up to my expectations. I found it to be anti-climactic. I cared about Sarah but not really about Julia.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a good read, however, the story ended before the book did, the end was a little boring.
tori_g More than 1 year ago
It's been nearly over a year since i read this, and while I can't remember exactly what I disliked about the novel, I still remember that I disliked it. 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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started out to be an interesting story but took a bad turn when they stopped following the main cahracter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great and fast read. Quite a lage turner. It got a bit slow near the end; however, ever detail was vital to the story. Beautifully written story. Will look into more stories from this author. This was my first book by her, and I enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very sad story with a good ending. Kept me turning the pages wanting to know what happened next to Sarah. A little bit of mystery. A bit of a history lesson as well. Recommend.