Unabridged, 9 hr. 58 min.
Polly Stone (narrator)
May 26, 2009
Genre: Historical & Contemporary Fiction
“Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel' d'Hiv's 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode” .
This novel tells two stories – both set in Paris, France, but 60 years apart. You have the story taking place in 1942 – told through the eyes of a 10 year old child. With this perspective, you are not told everything, but we as the reader can start to put pieces together for a more complete story. In her story the characters do not have names – they are just mother, brother, father, etc. For me, the fact that people were not given names – made this anyone’s story; it wasn’t necessarily just the story of Sarah and her family’s traumatic event, but the story of any of the families affected by the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup.
The other story is the 2002 story – this is the story of Julia – an American ex-patriot living in France. She is a journalist and begins writing a story about the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup for the magazine that she works for and becomes so absorbed with the story of this little girl, Sarah. As the novel bounces back and forth between time periods, you can use the information you learn through Julia’s research to help understand what is going on in Sarah’s story.
About half-way through the novel the two stories merge in a shocking way. You learn the names and fates of the characters and at that point it becomes Sarah’s story – no longer is it the generic story of any little girl.
This is a very sad and traumatic story – you will likely need a few tissues. Although the events are sad, the fact that Julia is doing this research and determined to bring these events back into the minds of the public who have forgotten, is admirable and something that I think should happen more often. If we don’t remember, we forget – it’s a very straightforward concept. For me, the writing was flawless and the story was so inspirational and taught me a lot.
The narration was absolutely top notch! With this book set in France and some phrases in French, it was easier to get the real feel of the story - I know absolutely no French so I would have slaughtered it.
You can listen to a short sample of the book below:
This book has been turned into a movie, Elle s’appelait Sarah, which was recently picked up at the Toronto Film Festival for US distribution by Weinstein & Co. It is scheduled to be released in France on October 13, 2010. It stars Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia and Melusine Mayance as Sarah.
Here is the trailer –
Reviews of this book by other bloggers
Also by Tatiana de Rosnay:
The House I Loved
A Secret Kept
The Other Story
A Paris Affair
You can also check out my review of the movie.
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