Back in 1942, Sarah’s mother orders her to fetch her younger brother, Michel. She does, but her brother insists he is going to their “secret place,” a cupboard in their bedroom in which the siblings often play. Sarah’s brother persuades her to lock him into the cupboard, where he will be hidden from the police. Sarah does, then pockets the key as she promises Michel she will come back for him.
This is a crucial plot point: Sarah’s hasty, naïve decision to follow her brother’s suggestion ultimately leads to years of devastating guilt. While Michel is depicted as brave—he remains endearingly undaunted in the face of arrest, and unafraid of being left behind by his mother and sister—this chapter also introduces the idea that bravery isn’t always wise. Sometimes, it can be a misguided choice. This is true for Sarah as well; she agrees to her brother’s plan because she loves him, but the novel will, from this point on, begin to explore the idea that loving people is often not enough to save them.