Narrator: Polly Stone
Published by BBC Audiobooks America on June 10, 2009
Genres: Historical Fiction
Length: 11 hours
Audio | Goodreads
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.
Julia Jarmond, an American journalist living in Paris, is assigned to cover the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Vel ‘d ‘Hiv, the day French Jews were arrested in the “roundup,” and ultimately sent to the death camps in Auschwitz. She becomes obsessed with what she learns, particularly about the fate of one young girl and her family.
I found the story extraordinary on several levels. First, I was unaware of this historic event and found it astounding that so little is ever mentioned of France’s involvement in the Holocaust. It’s especially troubling given that it was French soldiers, not the Nazis, who orchestrated the roundup. Secondly, the contrasts between the attitudes of the French people in 1942 and those in the modern day portion of the story was chilling. The roar of indifference was deafening. Lastly, what was happening in Julia’s personal life provided another opportunity to view the attitude of indifference more closely. Though her story wasn’t as compelling, it helped me absorb those prevalent themes more deeply. I liked the ending, which seemed rather poignant given the journey of both people involved.
I listened to this book and felt the narrator’s performance elevated the story. She provided a different tone to the historical portion, which helped me manage the transitions between the two periods. She was excellent.