Friday, October 23, 2009

Sarah's Key Review-- Part Three, My Opinions ( Last, long post)

Hello Again My Little Plumcakes,

So yesterday I gave you a little historical background into the book, Sarah's Key. I talked about the roundups known as La Grande Rafle of July, 1942.

The book also talks about Drancy, a French transit concentration camp the victims were held at, until they were deported to their final destinations.

I will give you a small spoiler and tell you that Sarah managed to escape Drancy and runaway to a nearby farm. She did everything she could to get back to her old apartment to rescue her brother, and she does get there. The rest, you will pretty much have to find out yourself if this book interests you. It seems like I gave you a lot, but there are enough twists and turns in the book.

One thing I liked is that the author, Tatiana actually interviewed survivors of the roundups and Drancy. She researched the history. She made a few good points. One being that Parisians don't want to talk about this. Throughout the book, she mentioned that it was difficult to find people willing to open up and talk about these events. You have the French that complied with these awful laws that just want the past to go away. Then you have the victims who have been through so much trauma that they don't want to talk about it.

I enjoyed this book a lot because it talked about events in history that have been covered up for so long. It was great for introducing me to these events, so I can do more research if I like.

One thing that I've discovered in life, is that if you want answers, and you keep asking and searching, eventually you will stumble upon something. There is usually someone out there who has answers or can help you find what you are looking for.

My great-grandparents have been a complete mystery, and right now that besides a couple of pictures of them, and memories my grandpa shared, they never existed. But I've been slowly getting information out of different people, and unexpectedly from my grandmother who, though had never met them, met other family members who knew them. There is always a survivor out there, or at least a close family member or someone that knows something......

Anyway, back to the book...........

Another thing that I liked what that the author mentioned repeatedly how hidden these landmarks were from society and how the French pretend it never happened. That many people living near the places these horrific events took place either have no idea what happened, or simply don't care. It was mentioned that many young people the character ran into just had no clue.

However, the book isn't without some flaws, or attitudes that I disagree with.

Here is what I disagreed with:

1.) The characters were fictional, but the events were not. But I think that Sarah's story was just a little unrealistic. Don't get me wrong, her story was sad, and I suppose it could've been realistic. But unlikely.

-First she escapes from Drancy because one of the police officers there took pity on her because he often saw her on the streets growing up. (This was just too hard to believe)

-Then she hides in the forest (skinny and shaved head) without the Germans catching her (Not likely, but I went along with it)

-She then makes it to various farms and although she gets turned down by the first couple of houses, she ends up meeting a really nice older couple who adopt her like their own. ( So unbelievable, wouldn't other people have hit them up first ? Wouldn't they be afraid of getting caught ? The temptation of turning them and getting a reward was strong for many people)

-The older couple raised her along with their sons as their own child

So basically she was just getting lucky time after time ( I left out a couple of more key lucky events) in such difficult times during the war, that just rubbed me the wrong way.

When it comes to writing books about the Holocaust with fictional characters, I really think that sometimes authors take things too far. If Sarah were a real person, I would've enjoyed this a lot more, knowing that she finally had good things happening to her. But to me, presenting a fictional character that just happens to be at the right place at the right time with the right person time after time is just a cop out and not realistic. Most Holocaust survivors had it so much worse. And it's a shame, because it paints an unrealistic picture to the readers and in a way kind of rewrites history.

2.) As I mentioned earlier, there were two stories in the book: That of the American reporter, Julia, who was instructed to research the arrests of July 1942, and Sarah, the ten year old little girl who was arrested with her family.

Basically Julia discovers that Sarah's story hits a little close to home, and I can't give out more details ( I already gave a lot of information).

Julia was an American married to a French man, and she had French papers and a French daughter.

What I didn't like is that she felt the need to reach out and apologize to some survivors in the book. Especially since she was not alive during that era, and the US did not participate in such events. Yet she felt that she had to take some responsibility, when I think she should have left it alone. It doesn't come across as right, and survivors don't feel any better. In fact, you would get wierd looks.

I also didn't like how she judged some of the French characters in the book. When she realized that apartments that once belonged to Jewish families were occupied by new people quickly, she was quick to judge regular French citizens. How could they not know that the family before them was deported ? Where did they think the apartments came from at such a cheap price ? How dare they just move in with researching it first ?

I didn't like the fact that she expected people back then to risk their lives and the lives of their families to save strangers. That is not how the world works. Do you save your family or risk their lives to help complete strangers ? That is a tough question. Her expecting people to all be brave and think of others was a little unrealistic. Honestly, if I were in that situation, I don't know what I would've done. Maybe I would've tried to help, but if I had small children and a husband, would I risk our lives just to help out a stranger ? Maybe if I had a good chance of not getting caught. But you can't judge someone for looking out for their family first, as many people were just trying to survive.

In reality, many people did not know the whole story of what was going on. Concentration camps weren't broadcasted in the news now. Everyone lived on lies back then. We know now, but back then, it was uncertain times, and life was hard for everyone during the war. My grandmother in Austria and our family didn't face religious persecution, but they did loose their homes, they faced hunger, and people died in battle.

During those times, you take what you get and you are in survival mode. If you finally find a place to live, you take it. Your family is first. You feed and provide for your family, and don't ask questions, especially about people you never met and couldn't help.

Don't get me wrong, I think that there were plenty of bad apples that turned people in for arrest, and aided the government out of malice. But, I think that there were more people that were ignorant than malicious. Laws against Jews were introduced slowly, and no one really knew what happened to them at the time they were deported.

Sometimes I think that as Americans, we are too apologetic, we try to say we're sorry, like had we been there we could've stopped horrific events from happening. Like our sympathy is going to rewrite the wrongs of the past. I just didn't like how that came across in the book.

Anyway, sorry for the scattered thoughts.

If you are interested in a real Holocaust story, where a woman survived, experienced multiple miracles of her own, and is still living, you can read:

"I will Plant you a Lilac Tree" By Laura Hillman. She was on Schindler's List as Hannelore Wolfe, which you will find at the bottom of the list. She was my grandfather's companion for years after his latest wife passed away. My grandpa passed away in 2006, and she was one of the few people who could tolerate him. My grandpa was not a nice man, charming at first, but not in private. Yet she stood by him, and they really loved each other. He cared for her, and she was with him until the end.

I haven't heard from her in a while, but she is often busy spending time with her own family, her son and her grandchildren. She treasures the family she has left deeply, and it moves me. I hope she is doing well. I think you would all love her book.

That is all for this book review. I will break in a couple of my new book finds, and report back when I am finished.


* Ashleigh * said...

Sounds like a decent book, "Sarah's Keys". However I think reading fiction based on historical events is too much for you b/c it's like Hollywood making every relationship look magical. Plus your passion for Holocaust related stuff is too big for a fictional book to really capture everything.

I'm reading "Fahrenheit 451" which is completely fictional yet has many political implications (ex: government having control of all ideas).

Senorita said...

I had to read Fahrenheit 451 as a freshman in college, and I hated that book.

Charles said...

Sometimes authors use a novel or screenplay to support political or social beliefs; or to cry out for morality and ethical principles. This is no more clearly evident than with Holocaust books and films. Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize the Holocaust, or to those who support genocide we send a critical message to the world.

We live in an age of vulnerability. Holocaust deniers ply their mendacious poison everywhere, especially with young people on the Internet. We know from captured German war records that millions of innocent Jews (and others) were systematically exterminated by Nazi Germany - most in gas chambers. Holocaust books and films help to tell the true story of the Shoah, combating anti-Semitic historical revision. And, they protect future generations from making the same mistakes.

I wrote "Jacob's Courage" to promote Holocaust education. This coming of age love story presents accurate scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. It examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality. A world that continues to allow genocide requires such ethical reminders and remediation.

Many authors feel compelled to use their talent to promote moral causes. Holocaust books and movies carry that message globally, in an age when the world needs to learn that genocide is unacceptable. Such authors attempt to show the world that religious, racial, ethnic and gender persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny's only hope.

Charles Weinblatt
Author, "Jacob's Courage"

Senorita said...

Hi Charles,

Thank you very much for your comment. I understand what you are saying, and I look forward to checking out Jacob's Courage.

Thanks for stopping by.

Scarlet said...

When fiction sounds too unbelievable and unrealistic, I lose interest. From what you've reviewed here, Sarah's story sounds too idealistic for my taste. "I Will Plant You A Lilac Tree..." now that one sounds like a good read, and I love that the author was your grandfather's companion and that you'd been in touch with her. How cool is that??

What will you read next? I'll join you if you make some suggestions, and we'll start the online book club. Do you want to try reading non-fiction? How about something about cults??

Liam said...

I just don't read enough. Maybe I should put in a little more effort. Perhaps I will give one of your suggested ones a go.

Your mom said...

I would have to agree with you my dear. There is way enough material about the Holocaust out there than to have to write fiction about that. And yes I feel qualified to give my opinion, not only as your mom, but also as someone born and raised "over there" where it happened. Granted, it was way before my time, but I have met and talked to so many people that had to go through so much, that I feel there is simply no need to use fiction.

In my little opinion, it is almost degrading to write fiction about the Holocaust, especially from authors that have no real connection to the people involved, the time it happened, and the place it happened.

Anyhow, just my opinion.
You, Sandra, keep up the great work you are doing, and do consider a career in writing. You have great talent.

Love ya!