Sunday, January 2, 2011
Tatiana de Rosnay, SARAH'S KEY
Like HOTEL, this book takes as its topic another powerful moment in history--the night when French police conspired with Nazi Germany to round up hundreds of Jews and put the on busses into the Velodrom d'Hiver, an enclosure in Paris, where there was no sanitation, next to no food or water, and many died ... and from thence, to Auschwitz. Told in a double-narrative (we're seeing so many these days) between Sarah (1940s) and Mlle. Jarmond (2000s). The personal story at the core of the narrative concerns young Sarah, who, instead of bringing her little brother along when she and her mother and father were dragged out of their apartment, locked the boy into a secret cabinet, promising to return. He died there. Years later (again, the parallels with HOTEL!) an American-French journalist, Jarmond, discovers that her husband is renovating that apartment, bequeathed to him by his father. She is determined to find out what happened to Sarah's family and discovers that Sarah went to America and passed herself off as non-Jewish and French. This is a remarkable story. But I found myself bothered by the romance/baby plotline ... her husband is having an affair with an old flame, a midlife crisis, and Jarmond becomes pregnant; her life-and-death decision about whether to keep the baby (her husband doesn't want, and will divorce her over) is, I think, somehow supposed to parallel and add depth to her decision about whether to pursue the story of Sarah, which her father-in-law is dreading (because he was there at the apartment the day Sarah came back, opened the compartment with her key, and found her brother dead). There are some wonderful sections, especially in the Sarah parts; but the ending (SPOILER ALERT) in which Jarmond ends up marrying Sarah's son feels too tidy to me.