Grace's Reviews > Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
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Sep 18, 12

bookshelves: wwii, books-to-movies
Read in August, 2012

This is one of those books with an interesting idea that was executed very poorly. It's always disappointing to read books like this because I can't help but think with every wrong turn, every cringe worthy sentence that this could have been so much better in a capable writer's hands.

First off, as I said, it's a very interesting idea. The basic story of Sarah is intriguing and the story of the Vel' d'Hiv' children should be read. However, de Rosnay just doesn't pull it off. She simply is not a good enough author. She uses so many cheap tactics throughout the entire novel. First, the awkward beginning without any sort of set up or characterization. She jumps straight into the roundup without introducing any of the characters. We hardly get to know them, even Sarah, during the entire novel. Second, the modern, parallel story that every single WWII book published in the last few years seems to have. This is an overused tactic that has been run into the ground and beaten down. It's difficult to find a recent book about the Holocaust that doesn't use a parallel story line. Thirdly, the short chapters were very jarring. It felt as if she was using the short chapters to avoid ever having to delve too deep. If the point of view was changing every few pages than maybe no one would notice how much she glossed over.

Now the writing. Frankly, let's face it, the writing was terrible. The best I can say is that it did seem to get a little better as the book went on (or maybe I just got used to it). While reading it, I had to stop at times to read parts out loud to my friends because there were passages that were so awkward. The sentences were short and simple. Too often it felt as though she had looked up words in a thesaurus. Also, she failed to ever completely draw me in. I'm a total sucker when it comes to sad books and cry very easily while reading, however, I never once cried during Sarah's Key, despite the subject matter which I think speaks greatly to the poor quality of the writing.

Next, Sarah's story seemed to be end way too quickly. Taking all the chapters, there was very little time with Sarah. It would have been nice had de Rosnay actually spent more time developing Sarah's character. As I mentioned before, it was frustrating that the book starts with the roundup because we get absolutely no chance to get to know Sarah and it doesn't get any better later. It also would have added a lot to have more from Sarah's perspective instead of those chapters simply ending so soon. Julia's story really isn't that interesting and I would much rather have heard more about Sarah. It just felt like lazy writing.

It gets two stars mostly because I reserve one star for books that I actively hate which is not the case with Sarah's Key. It is, however, a very disappointing and underwhelming book.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Susan I have never written a review-- just been on this site a few weeks-- but am so happy that you wrote this one for me! I am amazed at the popularity of this book, given the really mediocre writing. WHERE was her editor???


Grace Honestly, I feel like people are more likely to overlook bad writing when it involves a sensitive subject matter. While I do believe that de Rosnay had something she wanted to say and had a story to tell, she just didn't do it justice. It's really too bad.

Have you read The History of Love? It's a fantastically written and sensitive book dealing with the personal aftermath of the Holocaust.


Susan No, I have not. I'll put it on my list. Thanks!


Janine Flood I gave this book a VERY generous three, but after reading your review, which captures all of my thoughts completely, I feel wrong about even that. I think this book would make a great movie, because there is so much room for improvement.


Stacielynn Grace- very well put. This book has been praised and suggested by many, so I gave it a shot. The topic is absolutely important and opened my eyes to something I knew nothing about, so that is a positive. The negative is that it was put in such inexperienced hands. I am only on the third CD, so my analysis may be premature, but it's hard to overcome a strong first impression.
It drove me nuts that people were referred to as THE GIRL, THE WOMAN. The mother's immediate descent into a catatonic state was hard to believe, but the author gave me nothing to go on. The girl's astute mind and mature behavior is a little hard to swallow. Julia is a boring character with no gumption. The situations are trite, convenient, and predictable. Really, the French husband is a gorgeous cad? As a journalist, I find Julia unbelievable and infuriating. This novel has no depth -- what I am reading is merely a story outline.


Kayla I have to say this perfectly summed up why I thought better than I could put into words :)


Diane Couldn't agree more. My sentiments precisely. It was annoying!


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