The dark days of Paris’ WWII past
By Linda Kay WRITER TATIANA DE ROSNAY never envi- sioned that her book Sarah’s Key would be read by millions worldwide and published in 35 countries. She despaired that it would ever be published at all. The story of a 10-year-old girl enmeshed in the terrifying roundup of thousands of French Jews in Paris during the Second World War, Sarah’s Key was rejected by about 30 publishers. “Nobody wanted to publish it,” says de Rosnay, who wrote the book in 2002. “In 2005, I decided to put the book away. It was the most heart- breaking moment of my life.” Born in the suburbs of Paris, de Rosnay comes from a family of noted achievers. Her father is a French sci- entist who has written books on molecular biology, her paternal grandfather was an artist, her paternal great-grandmother was a Russian actress and her maternal grandfather was a prominent British diplomat. She herself had amassed an enviable record as a writer, working as a journalist for the French edition of Elle magazine and publishing several books before writing Sarah’s Key. Yet when the manuscript was rejected repeatedly, de Rosnay experienced a crisis of confidence and remembers questioning herself as a writer. “I was completely depressed,” de Rosnay says. “When the umpteenth refusal came through, and I was in tears, my husband said to me, ‘This book is going to change our lives.’ He just knew.” Even before it was finally published in 2007, Sarah’s Key clearly had changed de Rosnay’s life. Through it, she learned a great deal about a dark day in July 1942 when French police arrested more than 8,000 Jews, corralled them into the Vélodrome d’Hiver and ultimately sent them to die at Auschwitz. While de Rosnay had heard about the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup when she was an adolescent in the 1970s and had learned more when former French President Jacques Chirac publicly apologized in 1995 for “these black hours” in the country’s history, it wasn’t until she began researching a book titled The Memory of Walls that she wandered own a cheerless street not far from the Eiffel Tower to the site where the Vélodrome d’Hiver had once stood. She instantly knew that the place held terrible memories. “That got me started,” she says. Once she’d begun, she didn’t even realize she was writing the book in English until her husband read the first 20 pages and pointed it out. All her previous books had been written in French, but when de Rosnay analyzed her choice, she came up with a couple of reasons she had almost uncon- sciously gravitated to English. First of all, the lead character in the book is an American who moved to France and whose mother tongue is English, but, more important, writing in English served as a way to distance the author from the event. “I felt that writing about such a sensitive French subject would somehow be easier for me if I used my English side,” says de Rosnay, who grew up learning both languages at the same time from her British mother and French father. “I had to get out of my French side to express this very painful and ark side in France’s past.” For the moment, de Rosnay says, she’ll keep writ- ing in English. She recently published a new book, A Secret Kept, about a modern man confronting a ter- rible secret that will change him forever. She hopes her loyal readers will find the same emotional punch in that book that they found in Sarah’s Key. In the meantime, she’s anticipating with great excitement the release in September of the movie version of Sarah’s Key, based on a bestselling book that almost didn’t get published. C Signed book giveaway Tatiana de Rosnay
REGULAR READERS of
the book department might
remember Sarah’s Key, by
Tatiana de Rosnay, as one of
our staff picks in April 2009.
This book has become one of
my all-time favorites.
Sarah’s Key comprises
two stories, one contemporary and one set in 1942
Paris. Julia and her husband,
Bertrand, are preparing to
move into an apartment
owned by Bertrand’s family.
As Julia researches the
apartment’s tenants from 60
years ago, she learns not
only about Sarah, but also
about her husband’s family
De Rosnay’s descriptions
of the filth and panic made
me feel as if I had been at
the Vélodrome d’Hiver
during a roundup of Jewish
families. While I was reading
the book I found myself
turning to the Internet to
research what I was reading
about. It’s been more than a
year since I finished this
book, and the story haunts
me to this day.
For more book picks, see
COSTCO HAS 50 SIGNED COPIES of Tatiana
de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key to give away. For a
chance to win, send an e-mail with your
name and mailing address to giveaway@
costco.com, with “Tatiana de Rosnay” in
the subject line. Or print your name, address
and daytime phone number on a postcard or
letter and send it to: Tatiana de Rosnay, The
Costco Connection, P.O. Box 34088, Seattle,
NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS
NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES.
Purchase will not improve odds of winning. S weepstakes is sponsored by
Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010. Open to legal residents
of the U. S. (except Puerto Rico) who are age 18 or older at the time of
entry. One entry per household. Entries must be received by October 1,
2010. Winners will be randomly selected and noti;ed by mail on or before
November 1, 2010. The value of the prize is $13.95. Void where prohibited.
Winners are responsible for all applicable federal, state and local taxes.
Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
Employees of Costco or Macmillan and their families are not eligible.
Linda Kay is an associate professor and chair of the journalism department at Concordia University in Montreal.
Pennie Clark Ianniciello
Costco Book Buyer
SEPTEMBER 2010 ;e Costco Connection 37