Have you ever read one of those books where the main characters live in different times or places, but whose life stories are inevitably intertwined? I have too. It has become a common plot device in modern novels (and in my opinion is much overused). So I must say that when I began reading Sarah’s Key, I worried that the deeply emotional subject matter might be trivialized by a clichéd plot device. But that is not this novel.
The book is emotionally overpowering; a stunningly brilliant, but agonizingly tragic story. Told in a simple and direct narrative style, it brilliantly reflects how the tragedy of the Shoah ripples through time. For those that survived the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup the affects of that tragic event are inescapable and extend, unwittingly, to the generations that follow. (The Vel’ d’Hiv roundup was a forced gathering and eventual deportation of French Jews to the death camps which started on July 16 and 17, 1942 - Google Vel d’Hiv roundup to learn more). The discovery of a journal (about 2/3rds of the way through the book) creates a lump in your throat moment of utter despair. It is a tragic and overwhelming moment. Yet there is a lesson here too. The ending reminds us that there are those in this world – even generations removed from the Holocaust – who are dedicated to remembering so that it will never happen again and so that evil cannot win.
It is appropriate that I was reading this on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). Everyone should read this book, but read it in daylight with a loved one nearby so that you may know that evil did not win.