Here's the description: 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.
Okay, let me begin by saying I LOVE this book! Love, love, love!!! For starters I've never read a book quite like it. It's part historical fiction in that the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup did happen. It was eye opening and educational and, of course, heart wrenching so have tissues available. The book is also alternating perspectives but not in the typical sense. Author Tatiana de Rosnay alternatives from Julia's first person perspective to Sarah's third person perspective. On top of that, one event (Julia's perspective) is taking place in present tense. Sarah's story, however, is all in the past though written as it unfolds before her. This is no easy feat especially when you consider the book felt comprehensive and tight. It wasn't disjointed but, rather, allowed us to feel the rising tension more completely.
I believed Julia's character so fully. She encompassed that American abroad. What amazed me, however, was how de Rosnay had Julia evolve so completely and yet the evolution was so gradual you barely recognize it until you're towards the end of the book and you reflect back on the journey you've taken with this character.
As for Sarah, she had a fascinating tale. It's one that is vividly portrayed and made to feel so entirely believable that it's hard to image she's really a fictional character.
This book is going down as one of my all time favorites. I can't help it. It has just about everything you could hope for in a novel. My only critique is that de Rosnay let the end taper on too long. As readers we had hit the climax and the resolution. It seemed as if she didn't want to let it go, as if every minor loose end had to be tied up. Subplots, however, should have been tied up long ago. I believe if de Rosnay wanted to end the book with the same final pages, she could have gotten to them far quicker than she did. That said, you'll still keep reading because...well...it's been that amazing of a ride. And a ride it is.
So as my friend Liz said to me, I now say to you: "You must read this book!" And when you do, or if you have, you'll have to tell me how you liked it.