In 1942, the French police rounded up Jewish Parisians, imprisoned them in the Velodrome d’Hiver, and then shipped them off to their deaths in Auschwitz. Sarah, ten years old, was one of them. That the French officials, savage in their inhuman treatment of the victims, mostly women and children, shamefully participated in the Nazi genocide was successfully covered up.
Sixty years later, Julia Jarmond, an American expatriate journalist in an unhappy marriage, is assigned to write the story of the “Vel-Div,” as the stadium was called, in commemoration of its 60th anniversary. Sarah’s story becomes her guidepost and her obsession, as Julia follows it to its end long after the war is over, and only then is able to change her life.
As Sarah’s key opens doors, one by one, light is shed on the dark interiors of physical space, and human souls, and the dark rot of occupied France. The last door to be opened had obscured the French role in the destruction of its Jewish compatriots, who had been locked into a death trap by the French gendarmes and then delivered to the murderous Nazis for their final solution.
This is the first novel that de Rosnay, a popular French novelist, has written in English. It has been translated into fifteen languages, has become an international best seller, and well deserves its popularity.