On July 16, 1942, thousands of Jewish families who were Paris residents were rounded up by French police. They were locked up in the Velodrome d’Hiver, an indoor stadium, for several days under appallingly inhuman conditions. From there, they were sent to Auschwitz where they were gassed. Ten-year-old Sarah Starzynski and her parents were one of those families. With the police pounding on their door in the middle of the night, Sarah was desperate to save her little brother. So she locked him in a bedroom cupboard and promised to return for him.
Sarah's story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist living in Paris in 2002, who is investigating the 1942 roundup at “Vel d’Hive.” Julia’s research leads her to a trail of long-hidden family secrets that link her to Sarah, compelling her to delve deeper to find out what happened to Sarah. Probing into Sarah's past adds some serious uncertainties to her own future, causing Julia to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a vivid and compelling snapshot of France under occupation and reveals painful details that surround this episode in France’s history.