Jon Paul's Reviews > Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
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Dec 14, 11

Read from September 30 to December 13, 2011

There are many reviews of this book that list the specifics of the storyline and point out various strengths and weaknesses, so I'll confine my comments to what I found lacking in this work.

Though the material chosen for this novel is quite compelling, it is in the telling of the story that I think this piece fell short. In a fictional sense, it bears some resemblance to The Book Thief, yet the characters are not as adroitly drawn. In particular, the struggle of the main character is not clearly laid out, and much of the second half of the novel drags because her motivation is unclear.

I simply had a hard time understanding how a woman whose marriage is on the rocks, and who faces a variety of other life-changing events and considerations, decides to go on a worldwide goose chase to try to uncover events that happened more than 60 years in the past, rather than do the work required to keep her life afloat.

Not that a decision like this couldn't have been plausibly explained. On the contrary, I think such a decision made by a fictional character could tell us volumes and, pulled off well, could be a dramatic world-beater for a novel. But alas, it is here I felt the writing was lacking. Instead of giving us deeply moving, round, fallible, REAL characters, who struggle with decisions and push hard for what they want, who understand their own foolishness, but press on anyway, or reach some level of understanding and recognition only to have hopes dashed, Rosnay gives us characters who seem more affected by happenstance and coincidence, who drift along through the narrative of the story without ever really having to struggle, remaining in the end, despite all that has happened, basically unchanged.

This is not to say this novel was a complete write-off. The first third of the novel was fairly well written, and at least kept my attention. But in the end I felt this book could have been so much better, and that feeling, coupled by the unfavorable comparison to The Book Thief meant it was less than a hit to me.
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