Friday, February 22, 2013

Finer Things Book Club: Sarah's Key

For the month of January, my book group discussed Sarah's Key. We had a great group! A lot of people came and everyone loved the book. Here's a summary:

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.

The host for this month made a gorgeous door prize for one of us to win. She posted pictures of it on Facebook (which effectively encouraged people to come).

One of the advantages of having different people host the group every month is each host tells all her friends about it, so it's an easy way to spread the word.

One of us got to take home the wreath
The hostess asked people to bring French food, so we had chocolate mousse, baguettes with cheese, strawberries, grapes, and little toasted sandwiches on baguette slices.

After chatting and eating, the discussion commenced. I wanted to watch an interview with the author and with a holocaust survivor (YouTube has a ton of them), but we ended up not having time. 

The hostess asked me to lead the discussion. I don't know if I'll do it every month, but it makes sense to designate one person for every meeting if she's willing and good at it.

If you want to see the questions we discussed, click on "Read More" at the bottom of this post. They spurred a lot of interesting thoughts in our group and hopefully will inspire yours.

If you're a fan of World War II literature, here's a list of other books you might be interested in besides Sarah's Key:



The Book Thief
The Hiding Place
The Gurnsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society
Diary of Anne Frank
The Bridge of Scarlet Leaves
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Catch 22
Slaughterhouse Five
Atonement
Number the Stars
The English Patient
Sophie’s Choice
The Boy in Striped Pajamas
Schindler’s List



Discussion Questions

Books about World War II consistently make bestsellers lists. Why do you think stories about this war are so popular? Why do you think this particular book became so popular?

How is it that Sarah ultimately convinced Julia to keep her baby, even when all the advice from her friends and even the love for her child wasn’t enough?

Why did Rosnay refer to Sarah as “the girl” for half of the book?

Rosnay is French, but her main character is an American living in France. Why did she choose that nationality for Julia?

Why did the Vel d’Hiv affect Julia so deeply, even before she knew of the connection to the apartment?

What do you think the book would have lost if it only had Sarah’s point of view, or if it only had Julia’s? Which point of view did you prefer?

How do you feel about Sarah’s decision to end her life? Did this increase the impact of the story for you, or was it disappointing?

Do you see any problem with the Tezacs moving into theapartment vacated by Sarah’s family? Knowing what happened 60+ years earlier, would you live in the remodeled apartment? Did Edouard owe Sarah’s descendants anything?

If there were a moral to this story, what would it be?

A consistent theme in this book is willful forgetfulness, or the French people ignoring the history of the Vel d’Hiv because of their shame. Do American have any events in their past we pretend didn’t happen, or do we face our guilt head-on?

Julia feels like Sarah’s story should be remembered, but telling it has drastic consequences; it ruins lives, breaks apart marriages, causes family feuds, disturbs everyone who hears it, and ultimately brings the characters great pain. Also, Sarah didn’t want her family to know her past, so perhaps she wouldn’t want her story to be told. Would it be better if her story was forgotten?

Discuss the quote, “I had not needed to tape Gaspard Dufaure (Sarah’s foster brother). Nor jot anything down. I was all written inside me.” What do you think she meant?

2 comments:

  1. Loved Sarah's Key and what a fun bookclub you have! Thanks for the other suggestions.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This sounds like an event you would absolutely love, you Francophile you!

    ReplyDelete

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