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Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay 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. – St. Martin’s Griffin; 1st edition (September 2008)


Book Club Party Ideas for Sarah’s Key


I set my table with a Jewish Holiday tablecloth, a brass orchestra mini-menorah, a Kiddush cup & saucer, and an old key. I also placed a bowl of kosher salt on the table in the Jewish tradition in remembrance of the ancient sacrifices brought to the altar and offered with salt.
Sarah's Key Decorations


I love the sad and haunting sound of the cello, and Jewish Cello Masterpieces is a beautiful collection which sets just the right mood for a Sarah’s Key book club party.

Jewish Cello Masterpieces

Book Club Menu

Quiches, Kugels, Couscous by Joan NathanI found a gem of a cookbook on French Jewish cooking. This amazing cookbook is not only filled with wonderful traditional Jewish recipes prepared with a French flair, but also loaded with fascinating stories and Jewish history in France. The stories and easy-to-follow recipes are accompanied by beautiful photographs and illustrations. I prepared my menu and adapted most of my recipes for Sarah’s Key from this very special cookbook: Joan Nathan’s, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France.

French Matzo Balls Soup

Jewish Recipes, carrots, matzoh

Poppy Seed Pletzl

Parisian Pletzl

Parisian Pletzl

Stewed Red Cabbage

Jewish Stewed Red Cabbage

Jewish Stewed Red Cabbage

Spinach and Squash with Pine Nuts

Spinach and Squash with Pine Nuts

Spinach and Squash with Pine Nuts

Rosemary Fennel Chicken Provençal

Rosemary Fennel Provençal Chicken

Rosemary Fennel Provençal Chicken

I love the scene in Sarah’s Key when Julia and William meet at New York’s Cafe Mozart for coffee and Amadeus cheesecake. I was intrigued on what comprised an Amadeus cheesecake, but if such a cheesecake exists, I wasn’t able to find a description of it. So…. using my imagination, I came up with what I think an Amadeus cheesecake should be!

Amadeus Cheesecake

Amadeus Cheesecake

Amadeus Cheesecake


Book Club Resources for Sarah’s Key

Ratings at the time this post was published

Goodreads: 4.13 stars (314,248 reviews)
Amazon: 4.4 stars (2,557 reviews)
My Rating: 4 stars Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is a riveting novel of loss, forgiveness, self-discovery, and redemption.

Discussion Questions for Sarah’s Key

Spoiler Alert: Discussion guide may contain spoilers to the book.
1. What did you know about France’s role in World War II—and the Vél d’Hiv round-up in particular—before reading Sarah’s Key? How did this book teach you about, or change your impression of, this important chapter in French history?

2. Sarah’s Key is composed of two interweaving story lines: Sarah’s, in the past, and Julia’s quest in the present day. Discuss the structure and prose-style of each narrative. Did you enjoy the alternating stories and time-frames? What are the strengths or drawbacks of this format?

3. Per above: Which “voice” did you prefer: Sarah’s or Julia’s? Why? Is one more or less authentic than the other? If you could meet either of the two characters, which one would you choose?

4. How does the apartment on la rue de Saintonge unite the past and present action—and all the characters—in Sarah’s Key? In what ways is the apartment a character all its own in?

5. What are the major themes of Sarah’s Key? More Discussion Questions . . .

6. de Rosnay’s novel is built around several “key” secrets which Julia will unearth. Discuss the element of mystery in these pages. What types of narrative devices did the author use to keep the keep the reader guessing?

7. Were you surprised by what you learned about Sarah’s history? Take a moment to discuss your individual expectations in reading Sarah’s Key. You may wish to ask the group for a show of hands. Who was satisfied by the end of the book? Who still wants to know—or read—more?

8. How do you imagine what happens after the end of the novel? What do you think Julia’s life will be like now that she knows the truth about Sarah? What truths do you think she’ll learn about her self?

9. Among modern Jews, there is a familiar mantra about the Holocaust; they are taught, from a very young age, that they must “remember and never forget” (as the inscription on the Rafle du Vél d’Hiv) Discuss the events of Sarah’s Key in this context. Who are the characters doing the remembering? Who are the ones who choose to forget?

10. What does it take for a novelist to bring a “real” historical event to life? To what extent do you think de Rosnay took artistic liberties with this work?

11. Why do modern readers enjoy novels about the past? How and when can a powerful piece of fiction be a history lesson in itself ?

12. We are taught, as young readers, that every story has a “moral”. Is there a moral to Sarah’s Key? What can we learn about our world—and our selves—from Sarah’s story?

(Discussion Questions from St. Martin’s Press.

Other Book Club Resources

Jews in Velodrome in Paris Awaiting deporation

Jews in Velodrome in Paris Awaiting deporation

Purchase Sarah’s Key at your favorite bookseller


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The Author


Author Tatiana de Rosnay
Author’s Website

Tatiana de Rosnay

Tatiana de Rosnay

Other Works by Tatiana de Rosnay and Recommended Reading

A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sites of Interest

The Jewish Virtual Tour of France

Velodrome d'Hiver Memorial in Paris

Velodrome d’Hiver Memorial in Paris

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