July 1942 marked a dark period in the history of France where thousands of Jewish families were rounded up and forcibly kept in the Velodrome d’Hiver. They were then sent off to transit camps in France, before being packed off to Auschwitz, a Nazi death camp. What is so unnerving about this whole incident is that the rounding up and mobilization of Jews for deportation was done by the French authorities. Many of these victims were women and children.
Based upon this seldom mentioned, little known piece of French history, author Tatiana de Rosnay has written a novel that alternates between the past in 1942, and the present. The past centers around a 10 year old Jewish girl Sarah Strazynski who is forced to go to the Velodrome d’Hiver with her mother and father, innocently leaving behind a 4 year old brother Michel locked in a secret cupboard with the assurance that she would return to let him out when it was safe.
The present revolves around writer Julia Jarmond, an American married to a Frenchman and finds herself being consumed by the story of the Vel d’Hiv incident. As she digs deeper, she uncovers dark secrets surrounding her husband’s family which are connected to the deportations of Jews from France. In doing her research in and around Paris she discovers that very few French knew or want to know about this ugly event in their history. An amazing book that everyone should read!