Sarah’s Key

A treat was waiting for me at the hotel’s breakfast buffet this morning.

Cinnamon raisin bread!

Right when I spotted the bread, I threw two slices in the toaster before topping them with peanut butter and jelly.

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Along with the toast, breakfast included some scrambled eggs and a banana.

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I also poured myself a hot mug of my new favorite pomegranate green tea, which I am currently enjoying as I blog. Mmm.

Moving right along… It’s time for a PBF Book Review!

Sarah’s Key

Two days.

That’s how long it took me to read Sarah’s Key, a moving and emotion-filled historical fiction novel.

I couldn’t put it down and spent the majority of my evening the past two nights thoroughly entranced in the book.

sarah's key tatiana

The first half of the book flip flops between 1942 and 2002.

Sarah is an 11-year-old Jewish girl living in Paris in July 1942. The book follows her life, beginning on the night that her family is taken by French police to a large stadium, the Vélodrome d’Hiver, with thousands of other Jewish families who were then transported to concentration camps.

When the French police come for Sarah’s family, she tells her four-year-old brother to hide deep in the secret cabinet in his room. She locks him in the hidden cabinet, assuming her father will let him out or that her family will return to let him out soon. The book chronicles Sarah’s journey and her obsession with getting back to her brother.

In 2002, the book follows journalist Julia Jarmond, who, though researching more about the Vélodrome d’Hiver for a story, becomes engrossed in the events that occurred in Paris in the summer of 1942. Her life intertwines with Sarah’s and the book jumps back and forth between the two characters before solely following Julia as she connects the pieces between their two lives in the second half of the novel.

While the characters are fictional, the events that happened in July 1942 in Paris at the Vélodrome d’Hiver are very, very real.

Knowing that thousands of Jewish families were killed and others emotionally scarred forever because of the events that occurred only 69 years ago is what makes this book so hard to read, so gut-wrenching and so moving.

I have been deeply interested in the Holocaust since I read Number the Stars in fourth grade and struggle to wrap my head around the evil and cruelty that occurred in this world not that long ago. Sarah’s Key discusses the round up at the Vélodrome d’Hiver, an event where French policemen rounded up Jewish families, not German soldiers. I had never heard of the events surrounding the Vélodrome d’Hiver until this book and the author clearly communicates that the Vélodrome d’Hiver round up is an event that shames France and is commonly forgotten by not only the French but by people worldwide.

It is clear that the author feels that this event is one that should be remembered and I couldn’t agree more. The families affected by the Vélodrome d’Hiver round ups deserve our thoughts and our prayers and I am so grateful to have read Sarah’s Key, not only for the tremendous writing and storytelling, but for the education about such a tremendous and horrific event in history.

Additional PBF Book Reviews:

Comments

    • says

      exactly! i used to be SO into chick-lit (like shopaholic, etc.) and while i do still like those books, lately i’ve been wanting MORE from the books i read. this one is definitely worth a read.

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  1. says

    I love books that surround WWII and Concentration Camps. Night by Elie Wiesel was always one of my favorites growing up. I am going to HAVE to read this one! Thanks Julie. Just finished Mockingjay and… well.. am going through withdrawals! Need a good read.

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    • says

      i know what you mean! i plowed through all of the hunger games books and was then like “now what!?” once they were over! you get so invested and when a series like that ends, it’s kind of odd!

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  2. says

    I love your book reviews :) Books that tug at my emotions are the best…except i hate crying 😉 haha!

    Also a) I LOVE that tea. and b) I have yet to find an amazing GF cinn raisin bread – enjoy another slice for me?!

    :) Enjoy your day!

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  3. cait says

    I loved Sarah’s Key too! I read it a few years ago and it took me only a few days as well to read it :) So wonderful! Great review Julie!

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  4. Jen says

    We should do a book swap. You have some books on that list that I’ve been dying to read. I read The Help, though. I have to agree. It was amazing. I can’t wait for the movie to come out. Emma Stone is one of my favorite young actresses.

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  5. Janneke says

    Wow, what a great review! I am pretty much sitting here screaming “what happens next???!!!” in my head :-) I’ll definitely look into this one as soon as I finish my current book. Thanks!

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  6. Amy @ SGTC says

    I can’t wait until next week when I start my new job and have a somewhat normal schedule!

    I may actually have some time to read again! :) I have about 10 books waiting eagerly on my bookshelf!

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  7. Jesse says

    I also loved Sarah’s Key. If you are looking for more Holocaust fiction try Daniel’s Story by Carol Matas and of course the Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

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  8. says

    Number the Stars was a really good book that got me interested in learning more about the Holocaust as well. Anne Frank’s story is another one that will never leave me. I’m definitely checking out this book.

    Since you mentioned that you’re interested in the Holocaust, have you been to the museum in DC? I found it VERY hard to get through (finally did with quite a few tears along the way), but it was definitely worth the while.

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  9. says

    LOVED that book. I am weirdly obsessed with Holocaust literature (also since reading Number the Stars!) You should try Those Who Save Us… trying to remember the other books I read. I liked Zookeeper’s Wife as well.

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  10. says

    I remember reading Number the Stars as a kid and becoming very interested in the Holocaust. My grandmother used to tell me stories about World War II and how her father and brother were sent to concentration camps because they were soldiers fighting against the Nazis. This sounds like a book that I would really enjoy.

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  11. Holley says

    There’s actually a movie for the book too! It just came out within the past two weeks or so. I haven’t seen it yet… I didnt recognize anyone in the cast either. I’m waiting to go see it when my movie theater has the $5 ticket price!

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  12. Meg L. says

    This book sounds great! I actually just started re-reading “All But my Life” by Gerda Weissman Klein, a memoir about a Jewish girl growing up in Poland during the war. It really is beautifully written. I think you’d enjoy it.

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  13. Kristi says

    I recommend “Pictures at an Exhibition,” which taught me about an aspect of WWII that I’d never known about: Nazis stealing fine art and other artifacts from Jews all over Europe. Some masterpiece paintings have never been recovered.

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  14. Kate says

    I’ll definitely have to give this a read. I’ve never read about the Holocaust in France.
    So interesting that you read and loved Number the Stars in 4th grade because I read that book in that grade too. It was definitely a moving book!

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  15. says

    You NEED to read Room!!!! (If you haven’t read it yet, of course)

    I just bought it yesterday and I only have about 20 pages to go.

    I’m not even a mom, but it is so heart wrenching to read about a child think that way and live in that environment.

    So so so sad, but so so so well written and interesting.

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  16. says

    I read Sarah’s Key when it came out which was about 4 years ago I think? Now that the movie is coming out everyone I know is reading it and I honestly don’t remember what happened. I know the main plot, but I wish I had the emotional connection with it still for the movie. Maybe I’ll reread, I know I loved it.

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  17. says

    I’m Jewish, and I guess that explains why I’ve always had a deep interest in the Holocaust and Holocaust Lit (Number the Stars was the first Holocaust novel my parents let me read—still one of my absolute favorites). I definitely need to get this book!

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  18. Holly @ The Runny Egg says

    Thanks for the review! I’ve heard it is a wonderful book.

    And I love that you mentioned Number The Stars — I remember reading that in school too!

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  19. says

    I have this sitting on my bookcase. It’s my next book! I’ve heard nothing but good things. It’s also a movie. I’m not sure if it is out yet or just about to be released. I watched the trailer and nearly cried. So, I don’t think I’ll be seeing that (at least not in a theater full of people).

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  20. says

    I loved Sarah’s Key and bought it for a bunch of people at Christmas. Some other good WWII books are Those Who Save Us (by Jenna Blum) and The Book Theif (by Markus Zusak). I am finally reading The Help right now and love it. I can’t wait for the movie to come out!

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  21. says

    In addition to Sarah’s Key, I found myself reading several books about the Holocaust this spring, I would highly recommend both – The Book Thief and Those Who Save Us.

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  22. Elana says

    This book is next on my list! Right now I am reading, “Devl in the White City”, by Erik Larson. It is soo chilling and a great read so far!! It also focuses on real life events- it is the World’s Fair in Chicago. Looks like Sarah’s Key should be next on my list!!

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    • Isabel says

      I read “Little Bee” last summer and it is a really good read. From what I remember, it’s told from different character’s perspectives.

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  23. says

    Sounds like a great book Julie, and I wish I had more time so I could read all of your recommendations! PS. I’m with you on the pomegranate green tea – up until now I haven’t been able to stand green tea, but I have a Tetley pomegranate-infused one and I’m actually starting to really like it!

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  24. says

    I loved Remember the Stars in elementary school, and it has always remained one of my favorites. I spotted it at a yard sale this past spring and bought it for my ”collection” of childhood books, simply because I wanted it for my future child to one day read. I will definitely need to read Sarah’s Key…the book review is way too good to pass up, and I love learning about new things, while being a good emotionally and mentally charged read. Thanks. :)

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  25. says

    I want to read Sarah’s Key but have been warned that it might be a difficult read. I am Jewish and I have grown up surrounded by stories of the Holocaust. All the books I have read have always deeply touched me and made me appreciate my religion. I was always in awe of the spirit of the Jewish people and deeply moved by the non-Jewish people who risked their lives to help by hiding Jewish people. Thankfully my family had all gotten out of Europe (most of my family were Jews from Russia) before the Holocaust started but it is still hard for me to read about it. I still think one of the greatest movies of all time is Life Is Beautiful. Have you seen that? Amazing.

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  26. says

    Yum, pb&j toast. A favorite of mine. I’ll have to try it on cinnamon raison bread sometime — that would’ve never occurred to me.

    Adding Sarah’s List to my list of books to read — thanks!

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  27. Amelia says

    Thanks for the book review, I am always looking for good “summer” reading, (and telling myself MAYBE come fall I will go for something a little more serious or educational)

    ANYWAY, I had a random question for you, and you may have answered this before, but what is your absolute favorite brand of peanut butter? I have been trying some different kinds, the latest being MaraNatha organic no stir. I love the kind you grind yourself at Whole Foods, but I can’t always get there, it doesn’t store long, etc. Suggestions?

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  28. Dawn @ Blonde on a Mission says

    I am deeply interested in the holocaust as well. The survivor’s stories move me so much, as well as the diaries kept during. I definitely think I will pick this one up! Thanks for the review!

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  29. says

    I feel like I’m the only person (or at least blogger) who hated this book! I love Holocaust literature – if I had pursued my English masters I would have focused my thesis on Holocaust fiction – but Sarah’s Key felt too fiction-y for me. And I hated all of the modern scenes. I like the idea of weaving the two settings together, I just didn’t care for the telling of either setting. Anyone else??

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  30. says

    I’m trying this again, because I think my last comment didn’t go through. 😉 Cinnamon raisin bread is awesome to make grilled cheese with! Add a few green apple slices in there … yum! Not sure if that’s possible to do in your hotel, but it was the first thing that came to my mind! :)

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  31. Sarah says

    I picked up Sarah’s Key before I went on holidays…the first day of my holidays I was wrapped up in that book. It was very good!

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  32. Vanessa N says

    i loved the first half of this book but didn’t like it as much when it switched to being all about Julia (I guess I just didn’t really like her character nearly as much as Sarah’s). If you feel like picking up another WWII book (although you’ll probably want a break in between!), I just started reading Unbroken, which is a true story about an Olympic runner who joined the Air Force and fought in WWII. It is really really good, and there’s actually a lot about running/training in there too, which I enjoy.

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  33. says

    Thank you for the book review – I’ve always been an avid reader of books regarding the Holocaust. Started with Anne Frank. Another favorite is Night by Elie Wiesel which was mandatory reading in high school. Highly recommend that one.

    I will be picking up Sarah’s Key for sure!

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  34. dana a. says

    that book has been on to-read list for a year now! i really need to go buy it. Number the Stars is one of my favorite books ever, and it truly changed my life when i read it in 4th grade too. I still have a copy of the book on my bookshelf:)

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  35. Isabel says

    After reading ‘Sarah’s Key’, I couldn’t believe I never heard about these events in any of my history classes back in HS or even when we covered a major Holocaust unit in 9th grade. We had amazing English teachers in 9th grade who got together to create a Holocaust unit for a few weeks at our school. We read ‘Night’ by Elie Weisel and were divided up into two groups- ‘squares’ and those who weren’t (can’t remember what they were called). We ‘squares’ got ‘passports’ made and had to wear a badge with a square on it everyday. We had to eat together and weren’t allowed to do certain things. We would get points taken off in our passport if we did things like talk to a non-square or chew gum, etc. The non-squares were supposed to represent the Germans and Nazis while the squares were representing the Jews. There were many activities we had to do that put us in a better
    understanding of how Jews were treated and what they had to deal with during WWII. It was a real mind-opener and great lesson in tolerance….wish they still did this activity for the students now.

    (Wow I wrote alot! Sorry!)

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  36. says

    So glad you loved this book! I could not put it down when I was reading it.

    I, too, am a big fan of all things Holocaust and WWII related. I’m reading The Nazi Officer’s Wife right now. Its a memoir from a Jewish woman who married a Nazi Party member during WWII. Super interesting read!

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  37. AshleyC says

    I read Number the Stars for Battle of the Books (anyone remember that?) in 5th grade. I didn’t think I’d like it but volunteered to read it for my group. Turned out to be one of my favorite books.

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  38. Nieve C says

    You can download the movie from icefilms.info, it stars Kristen Scott Thomas as Julia. I haven’t read the book but did watch the movie – I thought it was amazing.

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  39. Leslie (Food Lush) says

    JULIE! Did you see A Cup of Jo today?! You and Ryan are on it. I almost freaked out when I saw it…I was like oh my god I know them! (of course I don’t, really)

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  40. says

    I love pomegranate green tea!! It’s one of my favorite kinds (and I drink about 4 cups of tea per day, haha)
    Love the book reviews and discussion, I got a Kindle at the beginning of this summer and it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. You should consider it! It makes it so easy to read when you’re traveling or just doing errands.

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  41. says

    That sounds like a great read. I also find family stories during the Holocause fascinating. Its hard to imagine that it was real and recent.
    If you’re interested in other books like this, I would recommend you read Night by Elie Wiesel (true), A Lucky Child – Thomas Buergenthal (True) and The Book Theif by Markus Zusak (fiction)

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  42. Caitlin says

    I really want to read that now, I’m intrigued! A book that you might like is “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. I loved it!

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  43. says

    I read Number of stars in the 5th grade and it was such a gripping novel. Such a sad period in history needs to be recognised and I am defo going to get my hands on Sarah’s Key!

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  44. says

    Cinnamon raisin bread is so so yum!! I just finished the first hunger games book and LOVED it.. I need to get the other too

    I was really obsessed with all holucaust books back in grade school so I will have to get this one

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  45. says

    I adore cinnamon raisin bread.. It reminds me of breakfast with my dad growing up. :-)

    This book is definitely a winner.. I too have always been interested in the history of the holocaust and this time period as a whole.. I took a number of literature classes in college on the subject which were super interesting.

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  46. Jules says

    i was just about the say the same thing as Caitlin! i always read Cup of Jo and saw the post just now, and thought.. that kinda looks like Julie! and it was! how exciting :)

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  47. says

    I read that book on my last trip and had the same reaction. I couldn’t put it down. And after I had finished it, I couldn’t stop telling people about it. I had never heard of what happened in France and found it so haunting. Wonderful book. Have you read The Help? That was the other one I read on my trip and it was just as good.

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  48. kyla says

    I read “Number The Stars” in 4th grade and was fascinated by it. I almost bought “Sarah’s Key” last night but decided I need to stop purchasing impulse items and I should probably finish “The Girl Who Played with Fire” first!

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  49. says

    I must read then! I have been reading, “Maine.” Partially because I am from Maine but it’s also been on the best sellers list. I definitely recommend it!

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  50. says

    I read Number the Stars when I was little too!! That was such a good book – I agree, I often can’t even wrap my mind around the horrific things that happen in the world. I even close my eyes during the bad parts of movies… my bf said I’m like Michael Or on the Blindside lol.

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  51. kelsey says

    Number the Stars was one of my favorites growing up and I’ve since been really interested in Holocaust stories. A few months ago, I read “A Child al Confino: The True Story of a Jewish Boy and His Mother in Mussolini’s Italy” by Eric Lamet. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a great true story about a Jewish boy, his mother, and their experience confined in Italy during the war. I loved it! Also, The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch is a historic fiction mystery about a hangman in Bavarian Germany. The characters are beautifully written and it’s not at all somber. I couldn’t put that down, either!

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  52. says

    I recently went to the Holocaust Museum in D.C. – wow. It is absolutely heart-breaking and unfathomable, but I think everyone should see it if they have a chance. Looking at real bunks, shoes, clothing, and pictures of those poor people is gut-wrenching and makes it all the more real.

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  53. says

    Thank you so much for doing these book reviews! I love to read and since I got a Kindle in June I’ve been plowing through books faster than ever so I’m always on the look-out for a new read. This is definitely on my Wish List to purchase soon!

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  54. says

    I, like you, have always been fascinated by the events surrounding WWII. I even took a class in college on the Holocaust and also studied American Jewish literature. One of the books I read in that class was “Survival in Auschwitz” by Primo Levi. It is non-fiction and I highly recommend it. I also recommend a short story called “The Shawl” by Cyntia Ozick. It is devastating and incredibly profound.

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  55. Jess G says

    Thanks for your book review and rec! I can’t wait to read it.

    On a unrelated note, I saw your “door” wedding picture on a Cup of Jo!! That’s awesome (considering how much volume that blog gets!). LOVE it.

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  56. says

    I love your book reviews! Being quite the reader myself I’m always eager to find new great books to add to my list! And it sounds like this was a great one so I will certainly be reading it! I’m currently reading The Help and can see why it’s your favorite! It’s so good!

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  57. Rosa - Fitness, Food, Fulfilled says

    This was an awesome book and really affected me as I read it. I took have always been interested in reading about the events of this time after first reading Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl as a kid. This book made me cry while I read it and still gets me teary eyed when I think about what the children went through.
    I’m tackling The Help next, then the Hunger Games.
    What are you going to choose next? Have you tried “The Girl Who…” series?

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  58. Sarah says

    Number the Stars stuck with me the same way it has stuck with you – such a powerful book. Since then, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go to Copenhagen and I always feel kind of silly explaining my extremely specific reason why – I mean, I read the book in lower school! Haha. PS I tried yogurt mousse today – SO GOOD! I mixed chocolate pudding mix with pomegranate chobani and fresh blueberries. I would def recommend that

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  59. says

    I loved Sarah’s Key too and it was so funny to see you mention Number the Stars, because it had the same affect on me as a child. I have been fascinated with the holocaust since then. What are you reading next? I started reading The Snowman last week and it’s pretty good!

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  60. says

    This is such a great book review! As a Jewish person, I grew up learning a lot about the Holocaust. However, this book sounds so unique and from a very different perspective. Along with The Help, this book is definitely on my “to read” list!!

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  61. Anne @strawberryjampackedlife says

    I have also been interested in the Holocaust since about 5th grade with Number the Stars. Then there was Schindler’s List in 6th grade, and a bunch of exhibits. Thank you so much for the recommendation! I have the book on its way from Amazon as we speak!

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  62. Kat says

    I’m starting to think EVERYONE read “Number the Stars” when they were younger! It’s such a great book and such a great way to teach kids about a part of our history that we should never sweep under the rug, no matter how horrific.
    I really want to read this book now!

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  63. Linda says

    It sounds like a book that would make me cry. I want to read Night by Elie Wiesel but I can’t read it on the bus (my normal reading place). I need a weekend I can devote to it!

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  64. Marilyn says

    I was a 6th grade teacher for 35 years, and I read “Number the Stars ” with my class ever since it was first published. I never became bored with it even though I read it every year. For most kids, it was their first exposure to the Holocaust, and I think many of them developed an interest in finding out more after reading the book. It is so well written, and it still brought tears to my eyes at the end, even after all those years of reading it. I read “Sarah’s Key” a few weeks ago in record time also. It is one of those books you can’t put down, as Julie said.

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  65. says

    I’m curious if you liked the second half of the book as much as the first. While I read it in 24 hours and definitely liked it, I really liked the first half and only felt half as enthused about the second half. I definitely felt like the pace slowed a lot in the later half.

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  66. says

    This definitely looks like a book that I would be interested in. I love historical books. It’s such a tough subject to read about, but enthralling all the same.

    I read “Number the Stars” too! Did you ever read “Night”? That was a pretty intense book too.

    Right now I’m reading “A Thousand Sisters” about the conflict in the Congo and how it’s the worst place in the world to be a woman. I’m definitely going to write a review when I’m done.

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  67. says

    one of my favorite books is a historical fiction about the taj mahal.

    Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors.

    A friend lent me the book to read on the plane, and there i was crying, while reading it, probably freaking out the lady sitting next to me.

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  68. Emily says

    have you read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (author of seabiscuit)? I know you will love this book! Also a WWII story about an olympic runner who fought in the pacific. His story is one of the most amazing I have ever read!

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  69. Alisa Rose says

    I would love to read Sarah’s Key. I’m currently recovering from surgery and wish I had access to a copy!
    This summer while in traveling in Amsterdam, I visited the annex that Anne Frank lived in. It really was an incredible experience and opened my eyes so much. The thought of not being able to step outside for so long really is inconceivable and so heartbreaking.
    The Holocaust is something completely unfathomable, so I appreciate authors who are brave enough to tell their stories, or to write about such a grave time for our world.

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  70. says

    I loved Number the Stars too! We used the library a lot when we were kids and I didn’t own half as many books as I do now. I remembered I owned this one though and I read it several times.

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  71. Denise says

    I haven’t read Sarah’s Key yet. But I, too, loved The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Help and Water for Elephants. Based on our similar tastes, I would recommend a book called Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran. I loved it and hope you will too.

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  72. says

    number the stars introduced me to the holocaust too…and i’ve been reading on it ever since! did you know sarah’s key is a movie too? it came out in france last year and is being released in the US this summer, but so far it hasn’t made it to my area.

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  73. says

    Sarah’s Key was so haunting for me! It was so well written and hard to put down, but there were times while I was reading that I gasped because I couldn’t believe the story.

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  74. sarah says

    There’s too much killing and injustice *still* in the world which we seem to forget :( ..look at Palestine for example. Where are the compasssionate people? Where are the HUMAnS?

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  75. Moishe says

    Today I saw Sarah’s Key which is playing at the Coolidge Corner Cinema. I then googled it because I was looking to discuss it and found PBF.

    The film is a brutal experience. As a student of the Shoah, I’m well aware of the depths to which humankind has descended. Yet I was unprepared for this experience. The DVD is available.

    The number six million has little immediacy and can’t be fathomed. In 1998 students in a TN school set out to grasp the meaning of the number by collecting paper clips. Read about it in Six Million Paper Clips: The Making of A Children’s Holocaust Memorial by Peter W. Schroeder/Dagmar Schroeder-Hildebrand, Kar-Ben Publishing, Minneapolis, MN, 2004 ISBN 1580131697

    I too was unaware of the extent the French people did the work of the Germans by rounding up the Jews of Paris for deportation.

    Whenever I see such horrific behavior as is portrayed in Sarah’s Key, it makes me strive to do something positive to help people. That’s the good thing I took away from watching this film.

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  77. Amanda says

    I was inspired by your review to read this book, and I tried, I really did. But after getting about a third through, I had to stop. When they talked about the toddlers being separated from their mothers at the camps, all I could think of was my nephew, who is almost two. The thought that toddlers like him were left on their own and died was too much. I spent last night dinosaur crying into my pillow because my heart was breaking that this actually happened, in not so ancient history. I agree that it is so, so important that we don’t forget this, but I just couldn’t read anymore!

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