Book Club Q & A with Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah’s Key

tatiana-de-rosnayIn preparation for our book club meeting, we asked Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah’s Key, reviewed here, if she would answer a few questions for us, and she graciously agreed.  But beware- there are a few spoilers!


Lisa’s questions:
How did you originally find out about the Vel d Hiv roundup?  Did you know right away that you wanted to write a book about it?
  
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I found out through Chirac’s speech, the one I mention in the book. I knew very little about the round up. I was born in France in the 60’s and like many French people of my generation, we were not taught about this in school. However now, students are taught about it.
 
I remember Julia’s shock at being a 45 year old woman living in Paris who knew nothing of the events.  Are Parisians as unaware of the involvement of the French during WWII as they seem to be in SK?  Has your book changed that?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  Some Parisians are aware and other are not. I’m surprised at the amount of  emails I get from Parisians who are shocked at what they have learned through my book and others who say they knew, but not to that extent. I think and hope my book may have changed things as I now have a million readers world wide !
 
What has been the reaction to your book in France?

Tatiana de Rosnay:  It has been very good. Especially from the Jewish community, which warms my heart. Another surprise is how much teens enjoy it.
 
The details of the separation of the children from their mothers was horrific- the beatings and the water being thrown on them.  Being a mother myself, that was hard to read, and I cried for those mothers and their children.  Did you interview survivors of Vel d Hiv while researching your book, or were those details something you’d read about in your research?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I met two survivors during my research, and three after the book was published. Wonderful moments that I shall never forget. They told me that they went through exactly what I describe in the book.
 
Do you have any idea how many children were able to escape the camps in the French countryside?  Is there evidence that some had help from sympathetic members of the French police, the way Sarah and Rachel did?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  No, I do not have a precise idea. However, France is the country where the largest number of Jewish children were saved and hidden by French people, like Sarah and Rachel were. These people then became «Justs of the Nation».
 
Why did Sarah’s part of the narrative stop after the discovery of Michel?   I missed her!
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  That’s how I «felt» the story.  Julia’s quest to find her (or William) then becomes even stronger.
 
When will your new book be available?  What are you currently working on?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I am about to publish Boomerang, my first love story ! It is out in France in a couple of weeks, and next year in the US. I am now researching a new book which takes place in 19th century Paris.
 
Valerie’s questions:
The whole issue with the late age pregnancy and Julia”s reaction suprised me. One, that she would have even considered the abortion at all…why?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I have not gone through this, thankfully, but my closest friend has. Her husband refused to have the child. She chose the husband over the child. She still regrets it, ten years later…
 
 and then naming the girl Sarah? An attempt to give something back for such a great wrong being done or another reason?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  Because Sarah is dead and gone, bringing into the world another little Sarah is like lighting a candle for all the Vel d’Hiv children.
 
I felt like the ending alluded to a possible romantic relationship between Julia and Sarah’s adult son. Wishful thinking on my part or ??
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I did not want a  soppy Hollywood ending, and I guess each reader can make up her own mind ! ( I personally think they get together, but I’m not totally sure !)
 
Was there one particular story, memory or incident about the Vel’ de hiv and its aftermath at the camps that most profoundly influenced and/or effected you and subsequently the story line of the book? Thanks! 
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I had all the book planned out in my head before I even wrote it. I wanted to share the horror and disgust I felt when I found out about what happened. The  worst part for me is how the children were separated from the parents at  Beaune. It makes me physically ill.
 
Sheri’s questions:
How has the success of this book affected your life?  What has been the most positive impact of its reception and the most difficult?

Tatiana de Rosnay:  This book has changed my life. I had never written a best-seller before and I have published 8 books. I’m still trying to get used to the attention. I guess the most difficult part is finding time to answer all my readers !
 
Karen’s question:
Since France has so much anti Semitism, have there been any problems with Sarah’s Key being sold in bookstores, since many citizens are wanting to ban the Holocaust teachings in the French public schools and universities?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I don’t think France’s anti-Semitism is to that extent ! I visit a school per week meeting students and teachers to talk about Sarah and the Vel d’Hiv. All bookstores here carry my book.
  
From Orchid:  
I‘ve visited France twice, and I thought based on stereotypes that the French might be rude, but I found them to be very helpful and kind to me, a tourist who didn’t know the language that well.  So my question is.. the French family in the book is portrayed as very private and somewhat arrogant.. did you embellish on stereotypes or did you find that to be actually true in your experience or research?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  The French family I describe is a typically high class, wealthy Parisian family, certainly not representative of all French citizens ! So are the Parisians that Julia pokes fun of! I am French myself, born in the Paris suburbs, and I think I know my country men well… 🙂

Many thanks to Tatiana de Rosnay for her openness and willingness to answer our questions, and for writing this incredible book!

Book Review: Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

9780312370848 Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is a brilliant and beautiful novel about a horrific and under-reported event that took place during WWII, the Vel’d’Hiv’ roundup of more than 13,000 French Jews in Paris by the French police. Told alternately from Sarah’s point of view in 1942 and that of Julia Jarmond, a modern day American journalist researching the event for it’s 60th anniversary, Ms. de Rosnay seamlessly weaves the two stories together.

At 10, “the girl” has heard her parents whispering anxiously about roundups and camps and arrests, but they haven’t told her anything directly. When the French police come in the middle of the night demanding “Open up! Police! Now!”, she does not understand. She sees it is not the Nazis coming for them and believes they will straighten it all out and come home in a few hours. Her 4 year old brother, terrified, climbs into his hiding place in a long cupboard and the girl, thinking she is protecting him, locks him in and pockets the key, promising him she’ll be back soon. The rest of the family is taken away as neighbors watch, some mocking them, a few standing up for them and demanding to know why.

The girl and her family are taken with thousands of others, mostly women and children, to the Velodrome d’Hiver, an indoor cycle track in Paris, as a holding place before boarding buses for concentration camps hours away. They are kept there for days without food, toilet facilities, medical care, or blankets in overcrowded and inhumane conditions before being paraded through town and onto buses- the same town buses they had used to go to school and to the market- and driven away to camps as the Parisians watched. At the camps, first the men are separated from their families. Piece by piece their lives are chipped away. Weeks later, in a gut wrenching scene, the women are brutally and forcibly separated from their children. The adults are taken to Auschwitz and the children, even babies and toddlers, are left to fend for themselves. All this time the girl is consumed with guilt and fear for her brother, who she believes is still locked in the cupboard. She vows to get back to him.

Sarah is called “the girl” in the book until page 132, when she finally begins to feel safe and treated as a person again. I was riveted by Sarah’s chapters, but not as much by Julia’s, the American journalist, although I think interweaving the two was a very effective way to tell this story. We are allowed to see the Parisian’s modern day apathy, their lack of emotion or knowledge of events that took place right in their own city. Julia is stunned to discover a personal connection to the Vel’d’Hiv’ roundup. As she unravels family secrets and her story begins to intersect with Sarah’s, her marriage starts to disintegrate. Told in parallel, I found myself racing through Julia’s parts to get back to Sarah. When halfway through the book Sarah’s chapters abruptly end, I was distressed and frustrated, wanting to get back to her story. What had happened to Sarah? It took the rest of the book to find out.

This book is so compelling and I highly recommend it. I love when historical fiction teaches us something new, and this tragic event in Paris was something I’d never heard about. The ending seems a little too perfect and coincidental, but I loved it, and I’ve heard the movie rights have been optioned. I can’t wait to see this story on the big screen.

Our book club was supposed to discuss the book two weeks ago but something came up for our hostess, so we’ll be discussing it tomorrow. I’ll do a book club wrap-up post here in a few days.

Check out my book club’s Q & A with Tatiana de Rosnay HERE.

Discussion questions for Sarah’s Key can be found HERE.

If you’re interested in this subject you might also like The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, reviewed HERE.

The Sunday Salon

cookies_groupHappy Sunday!  I hope everyone had a great week and will have time for reading-n-relaxation today.  I’m not sure if reading is part of the plan for me today but I’m going to try.  My oldest starts confirmation classes at church this morning, which means I’ll drag my lazy butt to church as well.  Then later I have to load up my van with dozens of cases of Girl Scout cookies from a warehouse, bring them home, sort them out by ‘who sold what’, and distribute them to the girls in my troop.  OH, and I have to catch a mouse (or at least figure out how to do that).

Once, years ago, when I lived in a rural area in Michigan, we had a mouse in our house.  I remember my mother putting out traps, then being horrified to hear one go off in the middle of the night, but in the morning-no mouse.  This went on for days until finally we actually caught the helpless creature rotten rodent in the pantry.  I remember my sister and I finding the little thing stuck in the trap the next morning and feeling so sad.  It was also fascinating to look at, in a horrifying way- so much so that we talked our mother into letting us put the mouse in a Mason jar and taking it to school for Show and Tell.  I was maybe 8 years old.

cordless-mouse1But now there is definitely a mouse in my kitchen (hopefully it’s a mouse, and not mice).  I have seen the, ahem, ‘evidence’.  I have heard scampering at night.  And I’m not 8 years old anymore.  I have no loving feelings toward vermin.  If anyone else has ever dealt with this, please tell me what to do- do I buy traps?  Poison?  Get a cat (our dopey golden retriever is no mouser)?  Or call an exterminator?  I’m freaked out by it and want the dirty thing gone NOW.

Ok, on to reading.  This week I finished Sag Harbor for Barnes and Noble’s First Look online book club .  I haven’t written my review yet, but the writing was superb- although nothing much happens.  It will be a tricky review to write.  Sag Harbor’s author, Colson Whitehead, is active on the book club message boards at B&N, and I love having access to the author in that way.  I was able to ask him questions while reading the book, and he answered them immediately- so cool!  

I finished Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay this week too.  I’m still reeling from the story- it was powerful.  My book club will discuss it next Sunday night.  We had hoped to speak with the author by speaker phone, but she lives in Paris and because of the time difference, it isn’t going to work out.  She is, however, going to answer our questions via email, so I’ll post the questions and answers here with my review sometime after the 8th.  She’s also my newest Facebook friend!  

51svuaqeq5l_sl500_aa240_Today I hope to start One True Theory of Love by Laura Fitzgerald, one of my favorite authors.  It looks good and I can’t wait to start it.  My book club spoke to her when we discussed Veil of Roses a couple years back, and she was so warm and funny.  For anyone who enjoyed Veil of Roses, I have exciting news.. Laura is in the process of writing the sequel!  Yes!  We’ll find out what happens to Tami and Ike!  Laura will be guest posting here soon to share what it was like having her own neighborhood book club discuss her new book.  

Well I hope everyone has a great week!  I’m off on a mouse hunt..  all suggestions, advice, sympathy, comments, questions about the cleanliness of my house (it’s clean, I swear!), etc. are welcome and appreciated.

Winner of Sarah’s Key and Bookcharming.com Bookmarks!

9780312370848Yikes, I’m getting behind with picking winners for my 100K Giveaway.   Darn kids are keeping me busy!

The winner of Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, my book club’s March selection, and the gorgeous Bookcharming.com bookmarks from Sheri of A Novel Menagerie, is

Raych at Books I Done Read!

 

Raych, I have your address and will get the goodies out to you this week!

And just for fun, here’s a picture of one of my wild girls (left) and one of Sheri’s twins (right).  A mini Lisa and a mini Sheri!  They had a sleepover last weekend so I snapped them waiting for their OJ and cinnamon rolls in matching robes and bed head!  Aren’t they cute?  They stayed up giggling until about 2 am.

img_2220