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.