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.

cinnamon raisin toast with peanut butter 002

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:


  1. 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!!


  2. 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!


  3. 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!


  4. 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!


  5. 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.


  6. 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.


  7. 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.


  8. 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.


  9. 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!


  10. 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.


  11. 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.


  12. 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.


  13. says

    I have had this book forever to read and just haven’t gotten to it yet. Thanks for reminding me. Good luck and fingers crossed on writing for the Villages 🙂


  14. 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.


  15. 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.


  16. 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?


  17. 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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  19. 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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