Saturday, November 28, 2009

How You Can Tell Sarah's Key is Written by a Non-Jew

At my temple book club discussion of Sarah's Key last week, I realized exactly what was so disturbing about the ending of Sarah's Key (spoiler alert!). When I got to the part where the reader learns that Sarah committed suicide, it didn't ring true to me. That a woman who was so committed to surviving the Holocaust should then run her car into a tree as an adult seemed to ring false. A depressed, sad woman, given all that she experienced, ok, that I could see, but why should she have killed herself? It didn't seem statistically true. Yes, as one woman said at the book club, Primo Levi killed himself. But as another woman said, a Jewish author would not have had the Sarah character kill herself. Sarah's Key is a bestseller and is soon to be a movie filmed in France, with Helen Scott Thomas as the glamorous lead playing the modern-day French woman who uncovers Sarah's story. As Jordana Horn wrote in the Forward last week, speaking of Anne Frank, it's as if the world only likes a "dead Jew" in their Holocaust fiction.

It's also disturbing (by the way, I did like the book, in that it is a well-crafted story, and does not shy away from depicting French involvement in orchestrating the killing of Jews in the Holocaust) that the personal problems of the French journalist are given as much weight, as much gravitas, as Sarah's Shoah experiences, just by virtue of having the chapters alternate with Sarah's story.