Carol's Reviews > Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
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's review
Oct 22, 2009

did not like it
Read in October, 2009

October 2009: re-reading this book again for another book club. I hope I like it better than the 1st time but so far I'm not seeing it. Why would she use a word like "ingurgitating" when you can say "ate"?? That kind of writing irritates me a lot. The true story is heartbreaking, and very interesting, but her writing just doesn't impress me as expressing the true horrors experienced by the deported Jews, or any real feeling for Julia's anger at her husband disdainful treatment of her.

Spring 2009: Predictable story, pedestrian & predictable writing: None of the plot surprises were surprising. I felt I wasted my time on this book (selected for a book club I belong to)
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03/15 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-33 of 33) (33 new)

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Eileen Carol, I agree. I felt the segments from Sarah's viewpoint were better than the rest of the book. Julia's story was shallow, unrealistic, and as you said, predictable.


Sally Wessely I totally agree with you on this. I felt the book was way too predictable and unrealistic.

Ariella With all do respect, I completely disagree. Language is part of the beauty of literature. The more you read the more you learn. The english language is filled with words that may be less common, however they exist, so why not use them? On the other hand I do agree that Sarah's Key never fully delved into the suffering and pain of the Holocaust.

Rebecca I'm wondering if Rosnay used such words b/c English isn't her first language, in which case maybe she should be given some credit for utilizing interesting words that Native English speakers do not use that often. The words didn't bother me, it was the unfocused narrative that should have either been told completely from Sarah's perspective or from Julia's. The problem is she was trying to add the history of the French gov't/French society either denying or not acknowledging what happened in 1942, combine it with a story of a little girl experiencing those events with a modern day woman uncovering this information. It was too disjointed. She could have told the story completely from Julia's perspective and had it be less soap opera-ish and had her uncovering the past (like DiVinci Code, though Dan Brown is not my favorite). Or it could have been told through Sarah's pt. of view the entire time and then she could of had an epilogue about the French govt's actions after 1942 to subsequent (FINALLY) impt. acknowledgment and apology for this event and others. However, the author had the courage to bring to light something that many people don't want to talk about and something that more people should learn about and learn from. So, because of that, this is a worthwhile read. Perhaps in the future there will be better written historical fiction about this particular event in the history of the Holocaust.

Bxrlover I had the same thought about English not being the author's first language, but even so, that's what editors are for.

Alyssa I agree about julia's side of the story being very shallow. Briefly touched on the husband's depression, started the book out with her being deeply in love with him and then with no real explanation she doesn't care about him any more. Too many 180 degree emotional switches. The father in law becoming caring, her love for Bertrand, william's decision to move to America and speak to Julia, etc. Too many threads in the story that never got the attention they should have. Zoe and bertrand's mother being two.

Interesting story but not impressed overall.

Diana I was deeply disappointed by this book and suffered through it only because it was read for a book group. It was grueling, particularly the narrator's personal life.

Mays Jasim it is a very good book i love this book it is a very nice book it is one of my favorite's i just cant forget that amazing book it is inside my head the whole time

Maia B. To Carol: You're right, the writing wasn't exceptional, the book was kind of predictable, and Julia was intensely shallow. (I really disliked her, actually.) But Sarah's part of the novel made up for it, and I learned a lot about the role of the French police from the book. Tastes just differ. :)

To Mays jasim: There's no need to be rude.

Julie Just a quick comment. Igurgitating doesn't mean "eat" persay. It means overeating, stuffing your face with food faster than you can swallow etc. The word "eat" being used instead wouldn't convey a thing without added explanation. I didn't read comments left yet so maybe someone already explained this.

Julie Oops, I mean "ingurgitate" and "ate" I shouldn't have posted until I had more time.

message 12: by Anna (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anna The book is clearly not about Julia's "predictable" narrative; De Rosnay even says so herself in the book's preface. The book is for, and about, the children of the Vel' d'Hiv'. I think what Rosnay wants to convey is that even amidst the strife of her modern, daily life, Julia is overcome by Sarah's story. So much so, in fact, that her own life suddenly pales in comparison. This book isn't really about Bertrand, Zoe or even Julia. It's about the holocaust, but it uses a modern vehicle to help bridge the gap for modern readers. It's a brilliant tool.

A good story isn't always about the twists and turns and surprises an author can give us. Instead it can often be the lack thereof; the subtle nuance and sadness in a story untold. I am disappointed to read how many people didn't like this book because of its "empty narrative" or "predictability." It seems, sadly enough, that you missed the point of the novel. Pick it up and read it again. Look for deeper meaning.

message 13: by Bxrlover (last edited Aug 23, 2011 01:51PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Bxrlover Anna wrote: "The book is clearly not about Julia's "predictable" narrative; De Rosnay even says so herself in the book's preface. The book is for, and about, the children of the Vel' d'Hiv'. I think what Rosn..."

Your assumption that readers who are not fans of this prosaic novel are simply not grasping the "depth" of the writing or gravity of the subject matter is insulting.

message 14: by Anna (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anna Quite to the contrary, actually. I think if I read the book searching for meaning within Julia's subplot, I too would think the book pedestrian or predictable. I am merely requesting that people who complained of the book's emptiness give it another chance by reading it through a different lense, one directed at the children involved in the round up. That is not meant to be insulting, nor do I think many people would be insulted.

Michelle I agree with this not being her first language and the adorned words didn't bother me one bit (maybe because English isn't my first language either), and I have to say, on behalf of Julia's side of the story, it was a little -break- from the emotionality of the Sarah's chapter, it gave my heart a break after suffering through Sarah's story. Plus, it's also refreshing to read a 'normal' (if it came across as shallow perhaps) person's story (Julia); being an expat is complicated and simple at the same time; you live a stereotype of what your expat country paints of you, and you struggle to make that a part of your living; I could relate to that side of her story. Although the baby bit and the ending at the cafe in NYC left me a bit disappointed. Overall enjoyed it though.

message 16: by Mays (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mays Jasim Maia wrote: "To Carol: You're right, the writing wasn't exceptional, the book was kind of predictable, and Julia was intensely shallow. (I really disliked her, actually.) But Sarah's part of the novel made up f..."

how am i being mean

message 17: by Maia (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maia B. Mays wrote: "how am i being mean"

Well, there was a comment (now deleted) that said something like, "have you even read the book?" which seemed overly defensive to me. If you didn't mean it to be, I apologize.

message 18: by Mays (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mays Jasim Oh i didn't make those comments i didn't make the "have you even read this" comment at all i think it was my big sister this is her good reads email not mine but she gave it to me and so now its mine (but by the way she is mean ) Lol she sometimes is crazy :) :D

message 19: by Maia (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maia B. Oh okay. I'm sorry I blamed you.

message 20: by Mays (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mays Jasim its ok it happens to me a lot

Julia Jenkins I did not know about this part of France's history. As for any critiques, I agree with Anna. It's what you get from the tale, not how the tale entertains you. -- and though this is fiction, who among us lived through the horror? And those of us who research history, how can we not be affected by the past? We hear and read about Kristallnacht, but this is the first i became aware that something similar happened in france. To me, it was a beautiful memorial to the people whose lives were forever changed on that night.

Candice Pitman I am currently reading this as we speak. I had the whole story figured out from reading the back of it. I am obvioulsy reading it anyway to say that I did. But I don't hate it. Fiction or not it is nice to see someone actually care about what happened to those people.

message 23: by Mary (new) - rated it 1 star

Mary What about the incomplete sentences? What about ending sentences with prepositions? That is the type of writing that irritates me a lot!

I found the characters incredibly flat...even Sarah. This is the only holocaust book I have ever read that did not make me feel. The author did not write believable characters.

Melissa Lawson I have a real interest in all things related to the Holocaust, so I was interested in this story immediately. I had no idea France had played this role. I found the book captivating and couldn't put it down. However, I felt an emotional detachment from the story. I wanted to cry when the little brother's body was found, but didn't. I felt the author's word choice impacted that detachment. Still, it was a interesting story conveying a little-known portion of history.

Claire C tr.v. in·gur·gi·tat·ed, in·gur·gi·tat·ing, in·gur·gi·tates
To swallow greedily or in excessive amounts; gulp.

I think she used that word instead of "ate" because, clearly she was trying to portray her character to be more than just hungry. She was starving!

message 26: by Kari (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kari I agree with your comment about ridiculous vocabulary. I mean, how many times can Julia explain Bertrand as dubious? LAME!
I was pleased that this did NOT interfere with the story for me at all!

Yelena I agree with this review: despite tragic and compelling story of round-ups in Paris, of unimaginable physical and mental suffering ... writing is less than impressive. But despite the flaws, I would recommend this book for the value of uncovering the story.

Suzie She is French, and you might blame it as "lost in translation".

Brendan Thompson I disagree with you. I respect your opinion and all but, I think her writing is one of the best parts of the book. I think she describes the story really well with her descriptive words.
I thought the story was compelling and very unpredictable. I really liked this book. :)

Andrea I totally agree with your negative review. Mine is even more scathing than yours. It reads like a young adult novel ... not one for intelligent adults who have even an inkling of history and some experience with good writing style.

message 31: by Mayi (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mayi Husosky I realize this is needed for the story, but I find it odd that the grandparents chose to stay in the apartment even after they knew what happened. The author tries to explain by the fact that the grandfather did not know that the grandmother knew the story. But if eduard was having nightmares as a boy you would think they have moved. Zoe does not want to live there, so why would eduard as a boy? I just wish the author would have adressed this whole, I still enjoyed the book very much but would have like to know more about Sarah.

message 32: by Ciel (new)

Ciel No buts. Plain and as simplistic as the writing and the characters, this plot detail is utterly preposterous. It's as if the person writing the book does not know human nature or even her characters. How do we see turns in plot well before the stupid Julia? Chapters and chapters are wasted getting to the spot any adult who is half aware knows must be coming. No tension, just stupid choices. She didn't realize her husband was still having an affair? What a moron. She didn't realize she couldn't go through with the abortion? What are we psychic and she just has to blindly troll through her days until the inevitable happens?

I felt Sarah was a more genuine character, and the rest of the story was added later. I understand the poignancy of the topic and responded to it, especially from a doted on child's perspective. If well done, a child's perspective on horrific events can be brilliant and insightful. Yet we have Sarah's confusing lack of knowledge as to how long a person could live without food or water. Maybe that was the first crack in the plot.

Erika Some writers use bigger words so why the complaint

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