Tatiana de Rosnay, Sarah’s Key


I read Sarah's Key in May of 2009 by Tatiana de Rosnay.  A total page turner that left me sobbing in the end.  Everyone that I know that has read the book absolutely loved it.  The book stays with you for a very long time.

My friend sent me a link to a UJA event that Tatiana was speaking at.  10am on Monday morning at Park Ave Synagogue.  Although just a side note, the synagogue is actually located on Madison Avenue.  I knew it would be worth making the long journey uptown on a Monday morning just to her speak.  It was absolutely the call.   

Tatiana, who is half French, half American, resides in Paris.  She has written many books but Sarah's Key is the first one she wrote in English.  Today she spoke about how and why she wrote the book.

She is an incredibly eloquent speaker and obviously sharp.  She had learned about the rounding up the Jews, in the 40's, and how they were all kept at the Vel d'Hiv  for 6 days before finally being deported to Auschwitz with the children being left behind.  Eventually the children, 2-12, were sent off too.  It struck a chord in her that this horrible event was basically erased from French history.   The more research she did, the more drawn in she became and hence Sarah's Key was written.

Tatiana is not Jewish but has written a book that has really spoken to the Jewish community.  Why?  She felt that she needed to tell this story.  She was so appalled that she had never heard anything about this in his education as a child nor did she ever hear anyone speak about it.  She started to write the book, in English, the first book she has ever written in English and the words and story just began to flow.  It took her a year to write the book and 2 years to get it published. 

Her french publisher had no interest in this story.  He said that this was not a story the French people want to hear about it.  The book sat on her computer for a few years.   She happened to be doing a story for Elle France about a women who was starting a publishing agency.  In the interview, they hit it off, same age, just clicked.  The woman asked her about Sarah's Key as she has heard about it through the grapevine that she had written a story her publisher did not want to publish.  She read it and decided she wanted to publish it.  She did and the rest if history. 

The book has been published in 32 countries and has been read by over 3 million people.  Through this book she has met survivors of the Vel d'Hiv round-up.  One woman who recalls when the police came to take her, her sister and mother away, he took her mother and sister and told her to take off her Jewish star.  He saved her life.  Another woman, who escaped just as Sarah did from the Vel D'Hiv.  Tatiana speaks to students and other groups like the one day I went to today where she has met a variety of people who have a story to tell about this black mark in France's history.  Her book opened up France to speak about the things that took place during the war.  Today, the story of what happened at the Vel D'Hiv is told to students in history class in France.  It is no longer erased from the books.

After she spoke, a gentlemen spoke who is a New Yorker.  His brother, mother and him were part of the rounding up of Jews.  His brother, who was 9 at the time, has told his tale to Steven Spielberg who is recording interviews of Holocaust survivors to keep records through his Shoah project.  Soon, most of these survivors will pass on.  This man told of their journey on how the police came and told them they would be back in an hour, basically giving them the ability to escape.  They ended up living in the French country side, in a farm, until the end of the war.

The stories are always moving and quite frankly incredible.  As the gentlemen who spoke said, I don't understand the need for war.  What is the point.  Why must people hate each other…for what?

If you haven't read the book, pick it up.  An incredible historical novel, good for readers from 10 and on.  Tatiana has spoken to 10 year olds that have read her book which she finds incredible but is always blown away by how perceptive they are.  An amazing read by quite an amazing woman. 

(btw, the story has been made into a film in france)

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Yule Heibel

    Interesting, thanks for the pointer. Here in Victoria British Columbia of all places I’ve had the opportunity to listen a couple of times to Dr. Peter Gary, who survived Majdanek, Dachau & Bergen Belsen. He’s just an amazing person, full of life. I’m not sure that he has ever had a book written about him (or that he’s working on one), but he’s definitely someone whose story (and spirit in dealing with what he was dealt) deserves to be remembered for ever. There’s a video archive of his participation at a symposium here (going back to the main site opens to additional material, but Gary is definitely one to watch, imo.

    1. Gotham Gal

      My guess is every survivor has an incredible story to tell. The fact thatthey are still alive today and able to function after all the atrocitiesthey have seen is a testament to the human spirit.

  2. jillrobertsfreeman

    Loved this book! Wish I could have been there to hear the author speak. This is a book I will never forget…touched my core!

  3. Tatiana de Rosnay

    Thank you for this post. It was a wonderful experience to talk to you all that morning.Tatiana de Rosnay

    1. Gotham Gal

      You were fantastic. I loved how you spoke about the experience of writingthe book. It was something you had to do and felt passionate about. Thequestions regarding all the political nonsense that were thrown at you, youhandled with ease. Quite impressive. The focus is the book, how it sitswith readers, the people you have met and the stories they have told you andthe knowledge that perhaps you have opened the world to a part of historythat should never have been swept under the carpet. Bravo.

      1. Tatiana de Rosnay

        merci ! Am now following you on Twitter 🙂

    2. Pamgenuario

      I loved your informative book and will be discussing it at my book club this week. I am assuming that the 2 on the cover of your book are Sarah and Michel, but am confused when this took place, as the story opens with Sarah and the roundup.

      1. Gotham Gal

        My guess it takes place somewhere around the late 90’s (to my recollection) and then of course during WWII.

  4. Tatiana de Rosnay

    BTW, I’m half French, half English ! Not American 🙂 My British mum would have a fit !