On July 16 and 17, 1942 , more than 13,000 victims (mostly women and children) were arrested in Paris and held at the Vélodrome d'Hiver and the Drancy internment camp nearby, then shipped by rail to Auschwitz. The Vel' d'Hiv Roundup, nickname for the Vélodrome d'Hiver: "Winter Velodrome" cycle track, was a Nazi decreed raid conducted by the French police. The roundup was one of several aimed at reducing the Jewish population in Occupied France. Very few of the transported Jews survived.
Sarah’s Key is a fictional story based on these horrifyingly factual events in the summer of 1942. Sarah’s story is heart-wrenching and difficult. The author, however, flip-flops between Sarah’s story and the story of an American journalist covering the 60th Anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup. Julia is an American who has been living in Paris for over twenty years, married to a French man and raising a child in Paris. She works for a newspaper catering to Americans living in France.
This back and forth between Sarah’s horrific experience and Julia’s modern day discoveries of those events makes it somewhat easier to read, although not nearly enough to take away the anguish and pain of Sarah’s story.
The first half of this book was riveting and nearly impossible to put down. However, once Sarah’s voice became silent, I found the story lost much of it’s luster. I liked the book very much, don’t get me wrong, and I still felt considerable compassion for Julia, but I missed hearing Sarah’s side of the story and the more intense facts surrounding it.
I missed her.
It is a sad, sad story.
On many levels.
This is a work of fiction albeit laced with graphic facts. It is not a text book. It is a story. Keeping that in mind, I would say it is worth reading.