The next book in my list has to be Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay (7) which looks at a forgoten period in World history when French Gendarmes were responsible for rounding up large numbers of Jews under the orders of the Nazi German High Command in Occupied France. The book is split into two perspectives; one based at the time of the events in question and one several decades later as a Journalist uncovers Sarah's story.....
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.
Whilst the segments of the novel that tell the story from a modern perspective are slightly less engaging, and Julia is a difficult character to like for a number of different reasons, the historical chapters really sweep you up in the story and emotionally destroy you. These are real events that being recounted here, even though the story and characters are fictional, and for many years France has tried to deny they existed and had much mention of them censored in the history books. As Tatiana herself says at the close of this novel, there are many people in France itself who are not aware that these atrocities happened as thousands of native Jews were shipped out to Aschwitz or other Concentration Camps simply to fill a quota. One of De Rosnay's few books that has been translated into english, this is another compelling read that sits right up there with The Diary Of Anne Frank though of course here, none of the characters are real.