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.
July 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm
I will be honest…this is why I don’t read a lot of popular fiction, especially written by women :((
At the threat of losing my feminist card, I will explain. I feel that female pop fiction writers feel like they need to pander to middle to upper middle class women and that the easiest way is to throw in really awful relationship stuff. If I want that, I will read smut, thank you. I get very irritated at that, especially when I am expected to read about privileged white women…
July 28, 2012 at 2:33 am
I tend to steer clear of Holocaust literature because, at this point, there isn’t much new to be said. I had heard good things about this one but, having read you review, I think I’ll pass.