Guillaume shares more information about his grandmother. He even offers to share photographs of her with Julia, and the two exchange phone numbers. At home, Julia tells Bertrand about the dinner conversation and asks if he thinks people will read her article about the roundup. Bertrand responds sneeringly, saying, “Nobody cares anymore. Nobody remembers. Write about something else. Something funny, something cute. You know how to do that.”
Bertrand’s derisive, arguably even misogynistic comments to Julia further establish his role as a toxic character in her life. Through these comments Bertrand also represents the French public at large, underscoring French society’s overall apathy toward Holocaust history. Julia will continually have to struggle against this apathy as she continues her research.
Julia exits the room, angry. She recalls her history with Bertrand. The two met when Julia was twenty-seven and dating another man, a fellow American. Bertrand insisted on dancing with Julia; his persistence and charm meant she was instantly smitten. She recalls meeting Bertrand’s family, the Tézacs, for the first time, and how they were all mystified by Bertrand’s choice to marry an American. Bertrand and his parents expected Julia to have several children, but she suffered several miscarriages and had Zoë after six years and a difficult pregnancy. Although Julia and Bertrand had both hoped for a second child, they no longer discuss the issue. Julia then thinks: “And then there was Amélie,” though she doesn’t elaborate on this. Normally, Julia thinks, she would return to Bertrand after a fight and allow him to woo her, but instead she gets into bed and reads more about the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup before going to sleep.
This backstory further highlights the emotional power that Bertrand holds over Julia. In the past Bertrand’s charm has been enough to dictate Julia’s decisions—so the fact that Julia breaks with her pattern and does not return to Bertrand after their argument signals, yet again, that she is nearing a tipping point in her marriage and in her struggle to assert her own identity. The fact that Julia reads about the roundup before going to bed also signals her intense interest in the topic, which will continue to build into a kind of obsession over the course of the following chapters. Finally, this chapter is important because it provides further details about Julia’s relationship with her in-laws, who disapprove of her being American.