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.
I am honestly unsure how I feel overall about this book. On one hand, the story line and learning about this day was so interesting. I seriously had no idea about the day they took the Jews and what happened to them. I was glad to have read that. Tatiana’s story was written well enough that it could have been a true story. In fact at times I questioned if it was or not.
The characters were vibrant, I loved Sarah’s storyline and how it connected back to Julia and her family.
Yet, as the book found closure… it seemed Julia did not. As her marriage fell apart and we flash forward to her new life she is portrayed as unhappy, having meaningless relationships, and alone with her two daughters. And just as I think I know where this is going and how it is going to end… it just ends. So abruptly that I turn the page to read on and find the acknowledgments and think I must have missed a page. But no… it was over, giving me the impression that the author became bored with her story or didn’t know where to take it from there.
Overall, a 3 rating…. the start of the book rated a high 4…. but the ending brought it down to a low 3
** 1/24/2009 Update on this review…. after our book club reviewed this book and discussed it, I was brought to a better conclusion on my thoughts of how this book ended. While I personally felt I was left hanging, not knowing where Julia’s life would lead, Angie Simmonds in our group had a better thought. She felt our author was giving us a sense now that Julias life was a lot like Sarah’s must have been… unsettled, never quite happy, but trying to make the most of what she has. Like Julia and Sarah’s life have entertwined through time. I like that thought…. this is why the book discussion is so important. We do not always see things the way others do, and the review gives each of us a different way to consider each book we read.
After the review my overall rating went up to a 3.8.