Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours. Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life. Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.
I am having huge difficulty trying to express my thoughts on this book. I enjoyed the read although the characters didn't seem to be well fleshed out but I was aware that the urgency of the subject matter and the magnitude of the horrific event might have overshadowed the character development.
I don't often feel a need to excuse or label my blog discussions as being just my humble opinion but this is a highly sensitive book and I don't want to do it an injustice.
There is No question that the events around the roundup of Jews in Paris is a complete travesty of any war-treaties and the last 6 decades have been spent in trying war criminals in court for such heinous acts. The hardest realisation comes when you read of this event and understand that it was wholly the responsibility of the french police that children were also gathered up and imprisoned. Germany didn't ask this of the french people...they volunteered the children on their own.
I am not here to add my opinion about these unforgivable acts but just to comment on the novel that describes a fictionalised story about these events.
I found it to be an easy read but as I said about the characters...they did not feel real to me. Sometimes it works to the author's advantage, in telling a tale, to play off past events with the present but in this story I felt that it lost the emphasis of the imprisonment. I would have preferred a story just based upon Sarah's voice and her journey but I also understand that the author used the present day tie-in as a way of introducing the events of 1942 when the journalist Julia researched the story.
It all felt a little contrived and trite to me when Julia ended up with Sarah's descendant.