Another Book Club selection, it was neither great nor terrible. Worth reading for a piece of history that has been hidden.
Julia is an unsupervised reporter for a very tolerant small magazine that has unlimited funds. She is assigned an important story – about the complicity of occupied Frances in rounding up and sending Jewish citizens to the deathly German camps. A real reporter would have run with this story. She finds a personal connection to the story – a key belonging to a Jewish girl named Sara – but she takes her time getting information from obvious sources. Unfortunately the story takes a back seat to Julia’s personal drama. We are made privy to the story of her crumbling marriage – a shallow and predictable telling follows. It would probably make a good Lifetime movie but in this book it’s just silly. Her jetting back and forth between NY and Paris and her travel to Italy (including the renting of a story book villa) made it hard to sympathize with her.
As a reporter, Julia seems pretty inadequate. Certainly her research skills are weak – she didn’t doesn’t how to look up a phone number via the internet? Many times she depends on her 10-year-old daughter’s advice because she’s too distraught to think or write. Her reluctance (or lack of curiosity?) to ask probing questions of people who have first-hand information is irritating. Perhaps it was done to add suspense to the story but it made her seem ineffective as a journalist.
The story that interested me more was Sarah’s story and the Vel’d’Hiv (the round-up of Jews in Paris by the Nazis with the help of the French authorities). I give Kudos to Rosnay for bringing this to light. I had never heard of this part of history. I wish she had concentrated more on this than the over-dramatic and predictable sequence of events in Julia’s life. I had many unanswered questions about Sara which I think Julia could have satisfied if she was less self-centered and a better reporter. In the real world his would have been a great coup for a reporter & her magazine. Neither Julia nor her publisher seems to grasp the significance of this. Instead, she turns in a lame story so she can return to her life story.
I give it 2 stars because the book irritated me. There was an interesting story here but it kept being interrupted by the predictable account of an insipid woman’s life.