Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key, by Tatiana De Rosnay.

As she looked at Eva and her mother, the girl wondered if her parents had been right to protect her from everything, if they had been right to keep disturbing, bad news away from her. If they had been right not to explain why so many things had changed for them since the beginning of the war. Like when Eva's husband never came back last year. He had disappeared. Where? Nobody would tell her. Nobody would explain. She hated being treated like a baby. She hated the voices being lowered when she entered the room.

If they had told her, if they had told her everything they knew, wouldn't that have made today easier?

I just saw a screening of the movie Sarah's Key (see my review here) and so I wanted to read the book to see how similar the movie was and also if it was better than the movie, which books usually are. Surprisingly, I actually ended up liking the book better than the movie. The last 20-50 pages or so of the book are very different than the events in the movie, although the ending is pretty much the same, and I felt that the movie version of Sarah herself was more interesting than the book version.

Sarah and her parents and brother Michel live in Paris, in 1942, and are Jews. They must wear yellow stars on their clothing to signify this. One day, they are all arrested by the police, in the Vel d' Hiv roundup, and Sarah tells her 4-year-old brother Michel to hide in the secret panel in their bedroom; she will come back later for them. They are taken to the Velodrome and later, to a work camp, and Sarah worries about Michel every day. Finally, the adults are separated from the children, to be sent to Auschwitz (though they don't know that at the time), and the guards say the children will be sent along a week afterwards. Sarah and her friend Rachel manage to escape, and they find a nice family in France that takes them in. She knows she must get back to Paris to save Michel, though, and so she and the family end up taking the train back there eventually.

The Sarah in the book was a lot less naive than the Sarah in the movie, but her naivete is what makes the movie better than the book. There is a particularly heartbreaking scene, when she returns to her old apartment in Paris to let Michel out of his hiding place, and the movie did this very well; it is perhaps one of the saddest scenes I have seen in a film as of late. The book did this well too, except that the Sarah character is a bit more practical, though it doesn't make that one scene any less saddening.

3 stars out of 5.


  1. I was hesitant to read this book but i am glad i did. It's amazing how the history of the French involvement is completely hidden from the eye of the public. As you read, you learn why. Tatiana de Rosnay does a great job of uncovering it and telling it in a heartbreaking, yet captivating way.

  2. I liked the book but I actually liked the movie better, which is rare. They changed quite a few things.


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