Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

1 of 52 in my 2011 book blogging challenge.

Sarah’s Key is not quite what I expected, or maybe it is what I expected but not what I hoped. It’s about a little Jewish girl who survives the Holocaust in France. The storyline is certainly compelling and heart-wrenching, but the writing style leaves something to be desired.

This is light reading about a heavy topic. I found it melodramatic in all the wrong places and understated in equally wrong places. I was still absorbed by it, and I will still carry this story with me for quite some time. I don’t want to drop any spoilers here, so I’ll just say that what the little girl goes through is haunting. Beyond haunting. It’s the kind of thing that couldn’t even be your worst nightmare because you wouldn’t know to think of it.

I learned from this book. It made me think. It made me wonder how often this very thing happened…and I think I do have to go with a spoiler now after all. Sarah’s little brother is locked in a secret compartment to hide him from the French police in occupied Paris, but then the whole family is rounded up and carted off to a camp where no one is able to get back to save the child.

Though this is fiction, that sort of thing must have happened in those days, and you aren’t really human if the possibility doesn’t leave you disturbed beyond measure. It is disturbing, but it is the kind of disturbing that makes me glad I was exposed to it, that I had to think about it. We all need to think about these things, to dwell on them over and over so as to recognize the makings of true atrocity when we see them.

Even though the book centers around this horror of the Holocaust, though, we are buffered somewhat from its impact by the fact that much of the narrative is told from the point of view of a journalist researching Sarah’s story many years later. Julia Jarmond, the journalist, has her own story interwoven with her exploration of the past. She has her own problems, and her story is interesting enough.

I just felt like we got too much emotional drama on Julia’s part and not enough stark reality on Sarah’s part in this book. Basically, Julia’s adjectives got on my nerves. She spent too much time telling us, rather than showing us, that people were emotionally overwrought.

I give it three stars. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think it measures up to what I expect of a book about the Holocaust.

Hattiesburg American Column 1/5/2010

My column that appears in the Hattiesburg American today.

I HAVE A GOAL FOR 2011 — to take one photograph (at least one) every day for the entire 365 days of the year.

I’m reluctant to call this a resolution. I don’t want to feel like I’ve broken a promise if I don’t follow through.

I might miss some days. I might quit altogether.

And that won’t be so terrible. I’m doing this for me. I’ll only really fail if I don’t try.

I want to do this because I want to be a better photographer. I believe the daily practice will inspire me to accomplish that. I’ll probably experiment more with my camera, read more books about photography, and attempt shots I might not have otherwise tried in my efforts not to repeat myself too often.

As a bonus, I will have a visual record of my year when I am done.

I’m a big believer in daily practice. Whether you want to be a musician, a writer, an athlete or a chef, the only real way to develop and maintain skills is to work on them every day.

I’m not trying to become a professional photographer, though. This is my hobby. This is my personal outlet that gives me some relief from my work.

I don’t aspire to become better than “real” photographers. I just want to be the best I can be. That too is best achieved through daily attention to the craft.

365 projects appear to be popular New Year’s resolutions this year. “Take a picture every day” is currently #9 on the list of most popular resolutions at www.43things.com.

“Lose weight,” much to no one’s surprise, is #1.

Normally, I try to avoid resolutions. I don’t like setting myself up to fail. This year is different, though. I have something I really want to try.

If you, too, hate to let yourself down, don’t be so hard on yourself. Just pick something you want to accomplish and go for it.

I might not make it to day 3 of my 365 project without breaking my streak.

If I don’t, I’ll still have 2 more pictures than I had before. And if I pick back up again on day 4, I’ll have one more.

That’s more than I could say if I didn’t try at all.