Ellie came home from the library last week with some Dr. Seuss. We have a lot of him at home so I don’t think she’s ever checked out Dr. Seuss books before. So the irony was loud and clear on Sunday morning when I was sitting on my bed finished up Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay and Chris was on the couch reading The Sneetches to the girls. When I taught 8th grade, I used that children’s book for the Holocaust unit. I silently prayed in that moment that my children would never know the hatred that those persecuted during the Holocaust felt. That they would never be judged and mistreated based on how they looked, what they believed, or where they lived. I know I can’t spare them from misery and hurt, but I prayed for it anyway.
Sarah’s Key is powerful and painful. Set in France, the novel flashes back and forth between the 1942 roundup of French Jews and present day France where Julia, an American journalist living in France, is researching WWII, the Holocaust, and, specifically, the events that the French government took part in against their own people.
While a work of fiction, the research de Rosnay did was evident as Julia traveled around the country learning about events and people. While the story is made up, the places, the events, and the horrors are painfully real. As Julia digs deeper into her assignment, she uncovers a link between her French husband’s family and some of the horrific events that happened during the round up of France’s Jews.
What Julia learns will her change forever.
This book is emotional, disturbing, and heartbreaking. Just when I thought I’d heard everything I could about the Holocaust (I’ve taught units to both middle schoolers and high schooler and had the opportunity to visit both Aushwitz and Birkenau on visits to Poland), new things come to light. And the depth to which humans can treat other humans leaves me speechless.
As the story neared the end, I couldn’t put it down. There were times during my reading where I had to stop because it was just too much, but as the conclusion neared, I couldn’t wait to see how it all played out.
I’m glad I read this book. It left me, like Julia, changed. And made me hold my babies even closer.