Tuesday, April 5, 2011
"Sarah’s Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay, reviewed by Maria Mallozzi
Children’s questions have a way of stripping down a situation and getting to what’s important. In Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosnay uses the questions of a ten-year-old girl to make readers feel the inhumanity of the Vel D’Hiv roundup of Jews in 1942 Paris.
A young girl’s playtime with her little brother is interrupted by the appearance of French policemen, and she locks him in their favourite hiding spot, promising to return.
What makes this book unforgettable is de Rosnay’s ability to convey the girl’s confusion about the arrest and her fear of not being able to keep her promise to her brother.
In 2002, Julia Jarmond, a journalist on assignment begins to ask her own questions about this period in Holocaust history. Her quest to find out what happened to the young girl and her family after they were arrested becomes the reader’s quest. Julia’s modern problems serve to heighten our awareness of very different lives and very different problems in France in 1942.
Julia had never heard of the French cooperation with the Nazis, so she is also searching for the opportunity to apologize for “not knowing.” “Knowing" and reactions to “knowing” are what this book is essentially about and De Rosnay uses the reactions of her secondary characters to further this theme. Julia’s personal decisions and actions demonstrate that hope comes with knowledge – hope that we may learn from history and the unjust deaths of so many will not have been totally in vain.
Maria Mallozzi lives and works in Mississauga Ontario. Her writing was shortlisted in the 2008 CBC Literary Awards in the creative non-fiction category. She would now like to apply some of her creativity to fiction and to that end has enrolled in a Brian Henry writing class.
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