You are a ten year old girl having breakfast with your Maman, Papa and little brother. A loud knock on the door! Police! Open up! She was afraid—her Papa had use strange words—roundups, early morning arrests. What could it mean?
Tatiana de Rosnay’s novel, Sarah’s Key, revolves around an actual historic event in German-occupied Paris, in the spring of 1942. The Vel’ d’ Hiv’ (Operation Spring Breeze) was a “round-up” of more than 13,000 Parisian Jews (mostly women and children) by the French police responding to a demand from the Nazis. Few, if any, of these Parisians would return from the death camps.
This story is told in alternating chapters by two people: One living in 1942 and the other living in modern day Paris.
In 1942, Sarah is a ten-year-old Parisian girl, born to Jewish parents. Her family is abruptly and brutally forced from their home and forever torn apart.
Julia, an American reporter, married to a modern day Frenchman, is assigned to investigate “the roundup” on the 60th Anniversary of the Vel’d’Hiv. She is shocked to find how little she, or anyone, knows about the roundup, and eventually the deaths of thousands of Parisian families.
Pivotal to this novel is the key in ten-year-old Sarah’s pocket. It opens the cupboard in which she has hidden her younger brother to hide him from the roundup. He’d be safe there, she was sure. The girl murmured his name and laid her palm flat on the wooden panel. “I’ll come back for you later. I promise.” -From Sarah’s Key, page 9-
As Julia pursues her research, she discovers that she and her French family may have connections to Sarah and her family; connections that will cause Julia to question her own life.