Meilleur commentaire positif
Timely masterpiece full of emotions
le 20 juillet 2016
It is quite fitting that this novel starts with a quotation from Irene Nemirovsky’s stunningly disquieting “Suite francaise” about the French army’s cowardice in 1940 and the nation’s widespread apathy, indifference and collaboration later on, esp. regarding its Jews. “Sarah’s Key” is a work of fiction based on facts: 76.000 French Jews were deported and never returned. The Nazi occupiers delegated much of the work to collaborating French authorities. French police played a key role, as did French concierges, bus and train drivers.
The story itself is a particularly dramatic case study and begins with a massive cliff-hanger that runs until halfway into the story. Events in 1942 are italicised, present-time events not, in brief chapters that converge beautifully. The other half concentrates on Julia, the novel’s US-born hero and her quest for more details about the drama that took place in 1942 in the Parisian apartment that came into her French in-law family’s possession soon after a dawn razzia in July 1942. Her reconstruction of events is plausible, but contains one seriously implausible fact or gap that even a seasoned author like Tatiana de Rosnay failed to solve or cover up. Attentive readers will spot it.
Otherwise, it is clearly a book targeting woman readers and female worries and concerns. It tries to bond with working women on both sides of the Atlantic and shuns few clichés re perfumes, sights and sounds of Paris and New York and its males.
Bought my home in Amsterdam in 1985. Until 1942, its neighbourhood was 66% Jewish. In the Netherlands 102.000 Jews were deported, much along the lines described above. I recently agreed to stick a poster with the personalia of the Jewish family who until the summer of 1942 owned or rented my home, to my front window on 4 May, the annual day to commemorate our war dead, for every passerby to see: they are Leizer Sonnenberg (b. Lancut, 8 July 1894), wife Dina Steiner: b. Rzeszow, 16 July 1900 and their children Rachela (1937), Lea (1930) and Toni (1924). Toni was born in Duisburg, Germany, his sisters in Amsterdam. The mother and children were all murdered in Auschwitz on 7 September 1942, most likely upon arrival. The father was killed on 11 February 1944. Michel and Sarah are well described and will be remembered. Please, say a little prayer too for Leizer, Dina and their kids.