Many books have been written about the horrors of the Holocaust; this particular novel looks at the French side of the atrocities and the seeming refusal of French citizens sixty years later to accept responsibility.
In Sarah’s story, we see the round up through the innocent eyes of a child and this makes the atrocities all the worse. Sarah is horrified at the fact that the French police she trusted could be capable of such brutal behavior. She is also distraught at the inability of her parents to protect her or even themselves.
During their escape, Sarah and Rachel were actually caught by one of the guards. He happened to be someone who was familiar to Sarah, and remembered her as well. She pleaded for her release and luckily, she was able to reach him on an emotional level. Not only did he left the girls go, but he also gave them money.
As the American Julia Jarmond researches the events of the Vel’ d’Hiv in 2002, she repeatedly encounters French citizens who do not remember or do not want to remember the French involvement. Few are willing to acknowledge responsibility for the inhumane treatment and murder of the thousands of Jews that had also been French citizens.
The author uses the people closest to Julia to demonstrate the extent of French apathy. Julia’s husband is not at all interested in the events Julia is researching; he does not remember and makes it clear he does not even think it is important. Bertrand says to Julia, “Do you think your readers are going to be interested in the Vel’ d’Hiv’?....It’s the past. It’s not something most people want to read about.” Even when Julia points out that his family is directly connected to a Jewish family that was killed during the Vel’ d’Hiv, Bertrand claims that a lot of people were involved and that it was a time of war.
When finally faced with the fact that her family has a personal connection to a Jewish family during the Vel’ d’Hiv, Bertrand’s sister also chooses to remain detached. She is angry with Julia and says, “Bringing back the past is never a good idea, especially whatever happened during the war. No one wants to be reminded of that, nobody wants to think about that.” By remaining aloof, many characters kept their distance from the horrors that the French Jewish...
(The entire section is 947 words.)