book group

Posted by on October 28, 2010 in other things | 6 comments

I need to find a book group. I'm trying to go to the one at my local library, but I haven't managed to get the right book and have it read in time for the meeting, and I've been trying for the last three months. The book for October was The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I'm listening to the audiobook, and it's just…soooo…long. I'm on disk 16 of 18. I tried desperately to finish before they met last Tuesday, but I just couldn't take any more and had to take a break. I don't know what the problem is, I've listened to books that were even longer, and there is a lot to like (although there are some very unlikable characters, of course). I think there are just some books that are easier to read and some that are fun to listen to, and this is in the former category. 

So, for my break from the never-ending audiobook, I read Sarah's Key , about which I have been hearing all sorts of good things. And now I need to have a book discussion about it, so I just thought I'd have it here, and if anyone else has read it, please talk to me in the comments! Be warned, there are going to be spoilers, so if you haven't read it yet, stop right now, I don't want to ruin it for you! And also, I didn't like it much, so I'm really sorry if you loved it. Please feel free to explain why, if you did. I'm open to other opinions! 


Okay, let's chat about this. I really wanted to like this book, I feel like I've read quite a few WWII/Holocaust books lately, and they have been among the best books I've ever read (The Book Thief, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, just to name a couple), and I've seen some excellent documentaries on the same subject (The Rape of Europa was a fascinating look at the loss of art, particularly from Jewish-run galleries and collectors as well as from museums. Highly recommended!), so I'm already in this WWII mindset, and just fascinated with it.

So, it starts out alternating between two stories, that of a young girl from a Jewish family in Paris in 1942, and that of a 40-something American woman in modern day Paris. I found the quick transitions between the two stories in the beginning really jarring, and just when you have really connected with this young girl, and really want to know more about her experience, the story shifts solely to modern times. 

I really had a hard time with Julia. I'm reading all about this horrific event, where families are rounded up, crowded into a velodrome under deplorable conditions, and then torn apart and sent to different camps, and, of course killed. It just made me not really care about her first world problems. Also, I really couldn't understand her difficulty in making a decision about having an abortion. As soon has her husband said that's what he wanted, the marriage was over. That kind of ultimatum, to me, is the end of any relationship. If she went through with it, how could she live with this man who would ask such a thing of her? I thought it was just a cheap dramatic ploy. Ugh! And then the whole attraction between her and Sarah's son, I just didn't see it, it was like a cheese-y romance novel. I did like the development of the character of her father-in-law, and I thought Mamé was someone I would have liked to know more about, but they were the only ones in the modern Paris that I liked. The rest just seemed so underdeveloped and little more than caricatures. 

I think there was enormous potential here, and rather than having the two POVs of Julia and Sarah, I would have loved to have read some other character's perspectives, like the policeman that let Sarah escape, the older couple that took her in, and even Sarah's husband and son, and seeing how the grown-up Sarah coped with her past. Oh, and one other thing that I didn't understand was the author referring to Sarah as "the girl" until she tells the older couple her name. As if we don't know who she is. The name of the book is Sarah's Key, I think we all know what her name is. Was it a literary device that I am too dense to have gotten? 

Okay, I'll stop here, but please, oh please, if you have read this book can we have a discussion in the comments? I would so appreciate it! 




  1. I haven’t read “Sarah’s Key”, but I will tell you that I gave up on The Story of Edgar Sawtell. Lately I’ve been checking books out from the library and if it doesn’t grab me right away, then back it goes. I just didn’t think I could finish it in the three weeks the library gives me. I know I can renew it, but I have this sense that I’m wasting my time if I don’t love it right away.

  2. If I hadn't made it this far, I would give up, but now I'm at disc 18, so I HAVE to finish! I just want to know what happens, and I listen while I'm driving, so I don't feel like I'm wasting too much of my time on it. But I agree, I get most of my books from the library too, so I return plenty without having read them. Life is too short for bad books :o) With Sarah's Key I just kept hoping it would get back to Sarah's story, and it ended up being mostly about Julia. Irritating!

  3. I gave up on Edgar Sawtell before the third chapter. I love dogs and dog stories but this one was annoying and I hated the characters and I didn’t want to spend time with them! Haven’t read Sarah’s Key, but have read Geraldine Brook’s People of the Book, and it was genius. Intelligent and moving and historically fascinating.

  4. Sorry, I’m another one that hasn’t read Sarah’s Key, but I have recently read 3 books alternating between historical and modern storylines and each time I wished that they had just concentrated on the historical storyline. The modern storylines always seemed to be very shallow in comparison and made the book as a whole a much poorer read.

  5. I realize that I am about 4 months too late on this comment but I’d like to make some suggestions on your audiobooks.
    Traveling an hour to and from work/school each day I came upon a few that were awesome in my opinion. First is “The Help,” it was amazing and I still think about it. Secondly was The Hunger Games. I’m thoroughly enjoying the entire series, even if it’s young adult!

  6. It's never too late for audio book suggestions! I've heard that The Help was really good, and am tempted to use an Audible credit for it, even though I've read the book. I think one of the narrators also read The Secret Life of Bees, which I loved on audio. I actually did listen to Catching Fire on audio, it was good too, I really enjoyed the whole trilogy. There's a lot of YA stuff out there that is really good, I'm not ashamed to admit to reading it :o) Please let me know if you find any other good audio versions of books! I usually have at least one on my iPhone at all times. Currently I'm listening to In the Woods, and I have Swamplandia! all ready to go next. 

say something nice...