I arrived at the Austin airport last week with nothing to read. This is a major crisis for me. Thank goodness there was a BookPeople mini-store near our gate. It should be no surprise that what caught my attention was a historical novel, Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay. The crux of the book focuses on a horrific episode during WWII that I was unaware of — the July 16 round up of thousands of Jewish families, who were then split up and sent to camps where nearly all were killed. The book alternated back and forth between the past and a contemporary story about an expat American discovering the story. The historical sections are completely compelling — I felt I was right there with 10-year-old Sarah as she lived through one terror after another. But the contemporary story didn’t grab me and I wasn’t sure what it added to the overall telling, except perhaps to provide a respite from the awfulness of that July’s events.
The manuscript I’d sent to my editor last April attempted to similarly blend an historical event with contemporary times . . .and it didn’t work, either. This leaves me wondering if there are successful examples of this kind of story-telling approach out there. I’m blanking on titles — have you read any that do this well?