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.
This is one of the books I wanted to read for the War through Generations Challenge, that I joined last year and could not. And I have to say that it was such a disaster not reading it. There are very few books that make me cry and this is definitely one of them. I sat well into the night, stubbornly wanting to now what happened to little Sarah. There are very few books which touch your heart and soul and this did. Tatiana has done a wonderful job of going back and forth between 1942 and the present and I was glued to the pages with a very heavy heart as I read both Sarah’s and Julia’s stories. I could identify with Julia’s compulsion to find out what really happened to the Girl ( and the Jew family) who stayed in the same house prior to her husband’s family moving in.
I want to apologize for waiting 27 years to find out about Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup. It brings tears to my eyes to think about the children and everything the families had to go through and the effect it has on the generations that follow.
I think each one of us should read this book, it is important to know and you should not wait to know Sarah’s story about her key. And I am sure you will be pained to read what happened. Through Sarah, Julia found what she wanted in life and a clear about how to go about achieving it, even if it was a very vague idea. This is definitely the best read of the year, loved it.
A lot more info can be gained by reading this book, this is a little something to give you an idea if you do not know about it…
The Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup (French: Rafle du Vélodrome d’Hiver, commonly called the Rafle du Vel’ d’Hiv: “Vel’ d’Hiv Police Roundup / Raid”, from the nickname for the Vélodrome d’Hiver: “Winter Velodrome” bicycling racetrack and stadium), was a Nazi decreed raid and mass arrest in Paris by the French police on 16 and 17 July 1942, code named Opération Vent printanier (“Operation Spring Breeze”). The roundup was one of several aimed at reducing the Jewish population in occupied France. According to records of the Préfecture de Police, 13,152 victims were arrested and held at the Vélodrome d’Hiver and the Drancy internment camp nearby, then shipped by railway transports to Auschwitz for extermination.
The name of the Operation was Operation Spring Breeze; gosh! what an irony.