My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The first half of this novel was written superbly. The tension between the 1940s story of ten-year-old Sarah, a Jewish French girl rounded up by the French police with her family in a little-spoken-of Nazi initiative and the 20th century story of Julia's investigation into the roundup (called Vel' d'Hiv') was well-balanced, with each increasing gradually in fervor to keep the reader properly intrigued with both as they each progressed in parallel. However, once the two stories finally coincided--Julia discovered her husband's family's link to the Vel' d'Hiv' in Sarah's story--it seemed that the book had reached its pinnacle. Julia's continued obsession with Sarah and finding her--and later her predecessor--dominated the remainder of the book, offering no suspense for the reader, who knew she would eventually find answers to her questions and was forced to wallow along with her in her misery over her failing marriage and the saddness she repeatedly professed feeling over her topic of research. At the end, Rosnay attempts to give the reader a sense of rebirth and reconcilliation, but the novel was so drawn out from midway on, it's just a relief to finally be finished--which is never a good way for a reader to feel.
Ultimately, the truest and most compelling character was Julia's daughter Zoe, who played an important but not dominating role throughout the novel as a sort of FOIL or mirror for the modern-day Sarah.
Rosnay proved herself to be a feeling, emotional, compelling writer. Hopefully with her next work, she'll have better editorial guidance to help her hone her material.
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