Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review - Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay

Released: June 2007
Publisher:  St. Martin's Griffin
Audience: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII
Source: Owned
Summary from Goodreads:

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 avoided this book for a long time - a combination of all the hype around it & the disturbing subject matter. After looking at it on my shelf for a while, I decided I just needed to start. I had very low expectations, mostly due to the fact that so many hyped books I've read lately have fallen short. So I was surprised to find that I really loved this book! (It is my favorite read of the year so far.)

Tatiana de Rosnay wove a beautiful story of past & present, the story of a young girl's experience with the Jewish roundup in Paris, 1942, & the story of a woman journalist researching that horrific part of French history in the present.

Rosnay alternated back & forth between the two narratives for the first half of the book, allowing us to learn bits & pieces of these two lives & the mystery around Sarah, the little Jewish girl. She then focused on Julia for the second part of the book (something I had to get used to since I really loved the little girl's narrative & missed it once it was gone). While I wasn't crazy about Julia's character at first, she grew on me. She started out reserved & weak & then grew into such a strong, take-charge woman. The story of Sarah was a horribly sad one, & I found myself crying often throughout this book. Hearing about the Holocaust & from the perspective of a young French girl was different than anything I'd ever come across before, & it was heartbreaking. While reading this story & visualizing all the Jewish children with the stars sewn onto their clothes, I kept thinking about Dr. Seuss' The Sneetches. I read this book often as a child & still think about it years later. It made me think how ridiculous it was to label someone with a star to prove that they were beneath you, or, in The Sneetches, that those wearing the stars were better than the rest. I kept thinking, "We're all part of the human race. How could anyone be so prejudiced & full of hate for another person?" It is something I just can't comprehend.

This book was very touching to me, & while I won't jump to read another book by this author in the near future (again, the difficult subject matter), I do plan to read more of her work when I can.

""How was it possible that entire lives could change, could be destroyed, and that streets and buildings remained the same, she wondered." ~ Tatiana de Rosnay, Sarah's Key

Monday, April 18, 2011

What I've Been Reading

I'm happy to say that I'm back, although I won't be posting as much as I was when I started this blog back in December.  After the complete reading disruption & the new chaos (in a good way) in my life, I've decided that I need to cut back on my reading challenges. So I still plan to read 36 BIO (books I own) by the end of the year, but I'm not sticking to a list anymore. I'm just happy to be reading again & want to bask in the freedom of it instead of being tied down to specific books or goals.

So for now, here's a list of books I've read since the end of March:

1. The Dark Divine - Bree Despain (4*): I thought this was such a fun book! Sure, it reminded me a lot of Twilight with the "running through the woods" scene & the "I'm a monster & not good enough to be with you" attitude, but I was completely entertained & didn't care all that much that this story had been told in one way or another many times before. I can see why those who are not religious might find this book grating (even those who are religious might find it that way), but I personally found it refreshing. This was a clean, but slightly edgy book, & I'm anxious to read the next one in the series.

2. Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins (3.5*): This book has gotten a whole lot of hype, so I had high expectations (even though I tried not to). Although this was a fun, light read, it was nothing absolutely mind-blowing. I felt like I'd been transported back to high school while reading this story, & for that I loved it. I could relate to so much that the characters were going through. I also loved seeing the streets of Paris through the eyes of the narrator, & many times while reading kept thinking that I needed to read The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Notre Dame played a decent enough size role in the story). I really liked the love story, & if this were made into a movie, it's probably one I'd watch over & over (like I already do with French Kiss, The Holiday, & The Family Stone). I will definitely read more books by this author.

3. Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers (3.5*): I had high hopes for this book. Wouldn't you with a 4.45* rating on goodreads? While the story was very entertaining at times, I felt it dragged in many places as well. It could have been shorter, in my opinion, & still had the same impact. I really liked the characters (minus a few villainous ones) & cared about what happened to them. The book was on the cheesy side, which made it harder for me to take seriously (one reason why I tend to side-step Christian lit). I will try reading another Francine Rivers book, but feel more prepared about what to expect with the next one, & my hopes won't be quite as high.

4. The House at Riverton - Kate Morton (3*): While I loved Morton's The Forgotten Garden, this one was a little slow for me. I wasn't crazy about the narrator as a younger girl (I thought she was kind of flat), but I really liked her as an older woman (which made me wonder how reliable her narrative/memory would truly be by the end of the book). There were just so many things in this book that bothered me that could have been avoided if people would just communicate & stop being so prideful & secretive! I know that's part of the point, but I found it frustrating many times throughout the book.

5. City of Fallen Angels - Cassandra Clare (3.75*): I really loved books #2 & 3 in this series & was so excited about the fourth one! But I just don't know how I feel about it! So much more of it was focused on Simon's character, & I never really liked him all that much to begin with. And Jace, my absolute favorite played more the part of a whiny martyr instead of his usual snarky self. I could be convinced to give this book more stars b/c I love the series so much, but was left feeling a little let down. Plus there's a HUGE cliff hanger - not so fun!

6. The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Emmuska Orczy (4*): I really liked this book! It took me a while to get used to the language/style of it, but once I did, I fell into the story. It was such a quick read, & I loved seeing the characters who I loved from the movie come to life in the book (I know, it should probably be the other way around, right? :). I guess b/c I've seen the movie so many times, I kept waiting for Percy Blackney to say "Sink me!" even just once-lol, but he never did :( Oh well! My only gripe with this book was that the author was very redundant, like she had to keep reminding the reader that Marguerite was such a beauty, or that the "web" or "net" was being tightened more & more around that wily Pimpernel . . . If I hadn't grown tired of these remarks, it would have been a definite 5 star for me!