Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Tatiana de Rosnay2008
This book wasn't quite what I was expecting. Which doesn't mean that I didn't like it, because I did. I just anticipated hearing more from Sarah, and when her voice disappeared from the book I was disappointed.
On July 16, 1942 the French police were instructed to round up the Jews in Paris. Over 12,000 men, women and children were arrested, and most were taken to the Velodrome d'Hiver (or Vel d'Hiv'), an indoor cycling track. After five days in appalling conditions, the prisoners were then sent to concentration camps, where most were killed.
Sarah, our title character, was a young girl living with her family in Paris when she was taken to the Vel' d'Hiv' with her mother. Left behind was her little brother, locked in a closet for safe-keeping. Sarah believed that her father would be able to free her brother. Unfortunately, he ended up at the Vel' d'Hiv' as well. The fate of her little brother would haunt Sarah for the rest of her life.
Interspersed with Sarah's tale is the story of Julia, an American journalist who has made a life for herself in Paris. As Julia begins to uncover the story of both the Vel d'Hiv' and Sarah, she finds her life heading in unexpected directions.
As I said before, I really expected to read more about Sarah. Through Julia's research, we do discover what happens to her, but it is second hand (or maybe third or fourth hand). About halfway through the book, Sarah's point of view disappears and the remainder of the story focuses on Julia and the changes that researching Sarah brings to her life.
Still, the story of the Vel d'Hiv is powerful, a little known but powerful slice of French history. I thought I was the last person in blog-land to read this one, but it seems to be making a return this week. Lisa's book club is reading it, and lucky them, the author will be answering some of their questions. I'm looking forward to her write-up for that meeting!