By Tatiana de Rosnay
Published in 2007
Published by St. Martin's Press (1st ed)
I read this book as part of my book club and I was not paid for this review.
Dark days. Every country has at least one of these in its history, some have many more. This novel is about one of France's less shining moments, when French Police rounded up hundreds of Jewish men, women and children and kept them in inhumane conditions in the Velodrome d'Hiver before being shipped off to their deaths in Auschwitz. Some Parisians tried to help them, most turned a blind eye.
The story has two intertwining narratives. Sarah, the girl of the title, locks her brother in a concealed closet when the police come knocking on her family's door, thinking that she will be able to return and rescue him. Julia, an American journalist who has lived in Paris for most of her life is asked to write a story about the Roundup for its sixtieth anniversary. She finds the story captivating and quickly becomes personally involved in her research, particularly when she discovers that her husband's family's and Sarah's histories overlap.
It's a very interesting premise but I just couldn't lose myself in this book. I found that the characterisation of Sarah was a little heavy handed and felt that she had been created more for the purpose of being the vehicle or the author's musings on 'how could the French Police have done such a thing' rather than being a real imagining of a 10 year old girl being wrenched from all that she knew and losing everyone she loved. Additionally, the relationship between Julia and her over-sterotyped French husband (snide, xenophobic and philandering but makes it up to her with amazing sex - oh come on) didn't ring true for me either.
Another issue I had was the ending. I don't want to give too much away or those who haven't read it yet but I just have to say that I didn't believe the ending. I don't think that Sarah would have done that and I certainly didn't believe the implied romance between the two characters at the end. It fell flat and let the last gasp of air out of a book that could have been really good.
That said, my rating of this book was 2.5/5 at our book club but other people really loved it and gave it 4/5. To it's credit, it taught me something I didn't already know and I liked the descriptions of Paris. It's not a bad book, it just didn't move me the way I wish it had.
Has anyone else read this book? If you have, were you surprised to find out about the round up?
Other reviews of this book:
The Literary Amnesiac
The Avid Reader's Musings