Sarah is a young 10 year old girl living in occupied France during July 1942. Raised in a loving Jewish family, Sarah is growing frustrated with the whispered conversations between her mom and dad feeling she is being left out. When the French police knock on their door in the middle of the night, Sarah hides and locks her 4 year old brother into a secret cupboard to keep him safe telling him she'll be back for him in a little while when they are released. But Sarah and her family's life is about to change forever.
Meanwhile 60 years later Julia Jarmond, who is an American journalist married to a French man and living in Paris, is assigned to write an article because of an upcoming commemoration of the Vel' d'Hiv', a round up of almost 10,000 Jewish people, over 4000 of which were children. But in researching for her article Julia comes across connections between her husband's family and that of Sarah's family and changes their own lives forever as she unearths secrets deeply buried.
I was not prepared for the moving and gut wrenching story that this would be. It is told from both Sarah and Julia's perspectives, alternating between chapters. Sarah's voice totally gripped me and had my stomach in a ball the whole time I was reading it. Her story while fictitious is based on the historical fact of the round up and arresting of the Jewish peoples around Paris in July 1942. What is doubly horrific is that it was done, not by the Nazis, but by the French police under orders from their government who worked with the Nazis. The containment of them in a major indoor sports arena for more than a week with no food, water or bathrooms was sickening to read as was the separating of mothers and children. All were sent to Auschwitz to their deaths. And the realization that this part of the war was so kept silent and only recently talked about is heartbreaking.
Julia's part of the story although not as gripping was interesting in the fact that the history and personal connection of this event changed her own life sixty years later. Very interesting to me was how the author delved into the different reactions to the event and the personal connection to them of different family members and the French people as a whole. I did feel, however, like the last 25 pages of the story (the New York setting) or so seemed to drag on. Once the climax of the story had been reached it seemed the story just wasn't wrapping up, almost like the author just couldn't let go of the characters. Sarah's story had ended but a lot of Julia's story somehow seemed to not want to finish. But in spite of that, it was a story that I am so glad the author told and well worth the read. It definitely made me think and will make me remember that date and what happened. I've got the movie on hold at the library in hopes that I'll be able to make myself watch it.