Monday, 26 October 2009

Sarah’s Key ~ Tatiana de Rosnay

Rather than write my own synopsis of this story I decided to use the summary from the publisher:

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.

I couldn’t have said that better myself.

This book had a compelling story to tell. During WWII Jews were not only targeted in Poland and Germany, but while France was under military occupation Jews were persecuted there as well. The Vel’ d’Hiv roundup involved the capture of many Jewish children who were ultimately sent off to Auschwitz. I personally dislike reading about the Holocaust because what happened to the Jews was just awful, and it makes it all the more difficult because it’s not just a story; it actually happened. But this book was wonderfully written, and having never heard of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup I was interested in the story-line. The author weaves the narrative between the past and the present; a sure method to capture her reader’s interest. The only part of this book that I didn’t care for was Julia Jarmond’s marriage falls apart as a result of her interest in Sarah’s life. I would have liked to have seen her marriage survive. And if I remember correctly there were a couple of swear words; seems like you can’t read a recently published novel without finding those in there. Recommended.

The Shadow of the Wind ~ Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Ten-year-old Daniel Sempere has received his greatest treasure: His father has taken him to one of Barcelona’s well-kept secret locations: the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel is allowed to choose one book for himself, to keep for the rest of his life. He selects The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. From its opening paragraph the book entrances Daniel. Armed with his now favorite novel, Daniel vows to discover all he can about Julian Carax and obtain more of his books.

Daniel soon learns though that Julian Carax’s life is shrouded in mystery. And his writings have disappeared; someone has methodically collected all of Carax’s works and burned them. But Daniel is undaunted. Accompanied by his friend, Fermín Romero de Torres, they embark on a journey of exploration into Carax’s life, and this quest will leave its shadow on Daniel’s own personal history.

This novel for adults was excellent! From the moment I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. It is chock full of mystery and intrigue. The characters are interesting, and their stories are woven together. As Daniel was playing detective I found myself anxious for his discoveries as well. The author does use some coarse language, but thankfully it wasn’t a lot. And the characters that curse you would expect them to speak like that so I guess it’s understandable, although not necessary. Also there were some imprudent moments between Daniel and his girlfriend. I guess when your characters are unredeemed sinners you have to expect them to act like their natures. But other than those two points I really enjoyed the story.