by tatiana de rosnay
"how was it possible that entire lives could change, could be destroyed, and that streets and buildings remained the same, she wondered."
to be quite frank, i didn’t really have high hopes for this book. i have no idea why; perhaps it was the title, or the weird appearance of the cover. i just didn’t quite understand this book at all or what it was to reveal to me.
but as expected, my expectations totally got blown out of the water. after hearing of this book for months and how fantastic it was, i knew i had to give it a try. so i sat myself down in a comfy barnes and noble chair, forgot the corny cover, the enigmatic name, and allowed this book to suck me in.
and oh man, did it suck me in.
as i’ve said before, i’m a huge holocaust history/world war II nerd. the story is a tale of sarah, a french girl who at the age of ten is uprooted from her family’s apartment in paris to a stadium (le velodrome d’hiver) where the french police kept young children and their families captive, and eventually a work camp in france and auschwitz.
what makes the story so fascinating, and downright addicting (i read 80% of it just today, in one sitting, it’s that good) is how de rosnay weaves sarah’s story of persistence and hope with that of julia jarmond, an american journalist living in paris.
julia and sarah’s worlds collide when julia learns of vel d’hiv (a shortened form of velodrome d’hiver) and becomes fascinated with the stories of the children who suffered there (the majority of the captives of vel d’hiv were jewish children). as the story progresses, you find out how closely sarah and julia’s stories intertwine and are interrelated.
sarah struggles to find her way back to paris, after she locked her younger brother michel in his bedroom’s cupboard to save him from the french police, who were taking the rest of her family to velodrome d’hiver. her journey with the brass key that she used to keep michel safe from the horrors of the holocaust, and julia’s attempts to figure out more about this dark mark in french history, without sacrificing the reputation of her husband’s family history, are what make this story so fantastic.
so please, someone, read this soon. so we can talk about it over virtual coffee. ‘cause i’m bursting at the nerd-seams to talk about this!
“maybe while she had been away her mother or her father had been able to come back and maybe they were all waiting for her, with michel, in the apartment, waiting for her to return. was she crazy to think that? could she not hope, was that not allowed? she was ten years old and she wanted to hope, she wanted to believe, more than anything, more than life itself.”