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.

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