Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Previous Owners

In June, my husband, Bob, and I visited friends who live just outside of Paris in Courbevoie, France.  Courbevoie is so close to Paris that Napoleon's funeral procession actually started there, and ended at the Hotel des Invalides, where his tomb remains.  Our friends had recently purchased a new apartment, and it was fantastic, with high ceilings, huge, screen less windows, fireplaces, and crown molding everywhere.  Bob caught his first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower from their sons' bedroom windows.  The apartment is in a very old building, with a tiny elevator and creaky hallway stairs with a worn runner down the center.  It felt like home instantly, and I wanted to move in.

I was talking with the wife of the couple, Sev, about the apartment and how cool it was that it was so old.  I wondered aloud about who had lived there before, and who lived there during the German occupation of Paris in World War II.  Being so elegant, and on the top floor of their building, it seemed likely to me that important people had lived there in the past.  I was secretly thinking that maybe this was where Irene Nemirovsky had lived while she was hoping to survive and writing Suite Francaise, but of course, I knew that was very unlikely.  Sev had no idea who had lived there before, but we talked about where her grandparents lived during the war and how they survived. 

Tatiana de Rosnay must have visited old apartments in Paris, and wondered the same things, because 110 pages in, Sarah's Key is the story of an apartment in Paris, and the people who lived there before the war began, during the war, and in modern times.  This story has captured me.  I have to force myself to put the book down so that the story will last longer.

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