Sarah’s Key

Sarah’s Key

Julia Jarmond Character Analysis

One of the novel’s two protagonists, along with Sarah Starzynski. Julia is a forty-five-year-old American living and working in Paris. She is married to Bertrand and is mother to Zoë (and later young Sarah). Julia grew up in Massachusetts and attended Boston University, then moved to Paris in her twenties to work as a journalist. Despite speaking fluent French and having lived in France for twenty-five years, Julia constantly feels like an outsider—not only in the context of her family’s conservative French family but also in the context of Paris at large. Julia worries about getting older and longs for a second child, having had a difficult pregnancy with Zoë and suffering several miscarriages. She is persistent and introspective, but prone to sadness. Julia is very close to her daughter, Zoë, and to her younger sister, Charla. As she learns more about the events of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup—as well as Sarah’s life and death—Julia becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering the details of Sarah’s life, as it overlaps with the history of her in-laws, the Tézacs. Julia’s preoccupation with Sarah’s life stirs in her strong feelings of dissatisfaction with her own life and marriage, ultimately leading her to leave her husband and her adopted country of France. By the end of the novel, Julia has given birth to a second child despite her husband’s desires, marking a reclamation of her sense of independence and agency. She names her second child after Sarah—and, it’s implied, goes on to form a romantic relationship with Sarah’s son, William.

Julia Jarmond Quotes in Sarah’s Key

The Sarah’s Key quotes below are all either spoken by Julia Jarmond or refer to Julia Jarmond . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the St. Martin’s Press edition of Sarah’s Key published in 2008.
Chapter 8 Quotes

Why did Bertrand take such pleasure in making me out to be the snide, prejudiced American, ever critical of the French? And why did I just stand there and let him get away with it? It had been funny, at one point. In the beginning of our marriage, it had been a classic joke, the kind that made both our American and French friends roar with laughter. In the beginning.

Related Characters: Julia Jarmond (speaker), Bertrand Tézac
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Sarah’s Key quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 22 Quotes

“Please don’t worry about it,” I said. “I don’t use my married name.”
“It’s an American thing,” said Mamé. “Miss Jarmond is American.”
“Yes, I had noticed that,” said Véronique, in better spirits.
Noticed what? I felt like asking. My accent, my clothes, my shoes?

Related Characters: Julia Jarmond (speaker), Marcelle Tézac, aka Mamé
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 32 Quotes

“I know they are holding something back. I want to know what it is.”
“Be careful, Julia,” he repeated. He smiled, but his eyes remained serious. “You’re playing with Pandora’s box. Sometimes, it’s better not to open it. Sometimes, it’s better not to know.”

Related Characters: Julia Jarmond (speaker), Guillaume
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 34 Quotes

As I stood there, oblivious to the traffic, I felt I could almost see Sarah coming down the rue de Saintonge on that hot July morning, with her mother, and her father, and the policemen. Yes, I could see it all, I could see them being pushed into the garage, right here, where I now stood. I could see the sweet heart-shaped face, the incomprehension, the fear. The straight hair caught back in a bow, the slanted turquoise eyes. Sarah Starzynski. Was she still alive? She would be seventy today, I thought. No, she couldn’t be alive. She had disappeared off the face of the earth, with the rest of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ children. She had never come back from Auschwitz. She was a handful of dust.

Related Characters: Julia Jarmond (speaker), Sarah “Sirka” Starzynski
Related Symbols: Dust
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

We wandered around the small, plain room, gazing at photographs, articles, maps. There were some yellow stars, placed behind a glass panel. It was the first time I saw a real one. I felt impressed and sickened.

Related Characters: Julia Jarmond (speaker), Bamber
Related Symbols: The Yellow Star
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 36 Quotes

There were several names and dates on the side of the tombstone. I leaned forward for a closer look. Children. Barely two or three years old. Children who had died at the camp, in July and August 1942. Vel’ d’Hiv’ children.
I had always been acutely aware that everything I had read about the roundup was true. And yet, on that hot spring day, as I stood looking at the grave, it hit me. The whole reality of it hit me.
And I knew that I would no longer rest, no longer be at peace, until I found out precisely what had become of Sarah Starzynski.

Related Characters: Julia Jarmond (speaker), Sarah “Sirka” Starzynski , Bamber
Page Number: 143-144
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 41 Quotes

I longed for the birth, for the sensation of the baby’s head pressing down through me, for that unmistakable, pure, painful sensation of bringing a child into the world, albeit with pain, with tears. I wanted those tears. I wanted that pain. I did not want the pain of emptiness, the tears of a barren, scarred womb.

Related Characters: Julia Jarmond (speaker)
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 42 Quotes

I thought of Sarah Starzynski, who had been Zoë’s age when horror came into her life.
I closed my eyes. But I could still see the moment when the policemen tore the children from the mothers at Beaune-la-Rolande. I could not get the image out of my mind.
I held Zoë close, so close she gasped.

Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 44 Quotes

I sat on the narrow bed and took the Sarah file out of my bag. Sarah was the only person I could bear thinking about right now. Finding her felt like a sacred mission, felt like the only possible way to keep my head up, to dispel the sadness in which my life had become immersed.

Related Characters: Julia Jarmond (speaker), Sarah “Sirka” Starzynski
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 46 Quotes

As the prime minister went on, my eyes moved over the crowd. Was there anyone here who knew and remembered Sarah Starzynski? Was she here herself? Right now, at this very moment? Was she here with a husband, a child, a grandchild? Behind me, in front of me? I carefully picked out women in their seventies, scanning wrinkled, solemn faces for the slanted green eyes. But I did not feel comfortable ogling these grieving strangers. I lowered my gaze.

Related Characters: Julia Jarmond (speaker), Sarah “Sirka” Starzynski
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 47 Quotes

After my conversation with my sister, I lay on the sofa for a long time, my hand folded over my stomach like a protective shield. Little by little, I felt vitality pumping back into me.
As ever, I thought of Sarah Starzynski, and of what I now knew. I had not needed to tape Gaspard Dufaure. Nor jot anything down. It was all written inside me.

Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 62 Quotes

Was it to do with Sarah, with the rue de Saintonge? Or was it just a belated coming-of-age? I could not tell. I only knew that I felt as if I had emerged from a long-lasting, mellow, protective fog. Now my senses were sharpened, keen. There was no fog. There was nothing mellow. There were only facts. Finding this man. Telling him his mother had never been forgotten by the Tézacs, by the Dufaures.

Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 72 Quotes

Somehow he was no stranger to me, and more bizarre still, I felt even less a stranger to him. What had brought us together? My quest, my thirst for truth, my compassion for his mother? He knew nothing of me, knew nothing of my failing marriage, my near miscarriage in Lucca, my job, my life. What did I know of him, of his wife, his children, his career? His present was a mystery. But his past, his mother’s past, had been etched out to me like fiery torches along a dark path. And I longed to show this man that I cared, that what happened to his mother had altered my life.

Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire Sarah’s Key LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sarah s key.pdf.medium

Julia Jarmond Character Timeline in Sarah’s Key

The timeline below shows where the character Julia Jarmond appears in Sarah’s Key. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
In May of 2002 in Paris, Julia Jarmond and her eleven-year-old daughter, Zoë, visit the apartment they are about to move into.... (full context)
Chapter 4
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Back in 2002, Julia, Zoë, and Antoine begin a tour of Mamé’s old apartment. Julia tells Antoine that it... (full context)
Chapter 6
Identity Theme Icon
Back in 2002, Bertrand finally finishes his phone call, and asks Julia what she thinks of the apartment, “cupping [her] ass with a careless, possessive hand” as... (full context)
Chapter 8
Identity Theme Icon
Although Bertrand insists that Julia “adores” his sense of humor, Julia confesses to herself that Bertrand’s nasty joking makes her... (full context)
Chapter 10
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
At work, Julia receives an assignment from her boss, Joshua, to write an article about the Vel’ d’Hiv’... (full context)
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Julia heads to her office and begins her research, only to find that many of the... (full context)
Chapter 12
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Julia recounts her life story. She grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, with a mother, father, and... (full context)
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
Julia has a dinner date with Hervé and Christophe, who are still roommates. (The novel is... (full context)
Chapter 14
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Hervé remains skeptical that Julia is okay. She reflects that normally she would confide in Hervé, and contemplates telling him... (full context)
Chapter 16
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Julia exits the room, angry. She recalls her history with Bertrand. The two met when Julia... (full context)
Chapter 18
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Together with her photojournalist colleague, Bamber, Julia visits the rue Nélaton in Paris—the site of the Vélodrome d’Hiver prior to its demolition.... (full context)
Chapter 20
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
Julia and Bamber meet with the woman referred to them by the waiter. She was thirty-five... (full context)
Chapter 22
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Julia visits Mamé at the nursing home where she lives. Mamé suffers from dementia and Julia... (full context)
Chapter 24
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Julia leaves Mamé’s nursing home “in a sort of daze” and heads to the rue de... (full context)
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Julia phones Bertrand and asks if his family ever told him that Mamé and her family... (full context)
Chapter 26
Identity Theme Icon
Julia arrives home and realizes that she has been nauseated for the past couple days. She... (full context)
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
When Zoë gets home from school, Julia wraps her in a hug. Zoë remarks that she is glad to see her mom... (full context)
Chapter 28
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Julia sits at her “usual table” in the restaurant and waits for Bertrand to meet her.... (full context)
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
Resolving not to think about Amélie and knowing Bertrand will be “late, as usual,” Julia takes out her notes on the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup and becomes absorbed in her work.... (full context)
Chapter 30
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Julia awakens the day after her disastrous dinner date with Bertrand, feeling as if she has... (full context)
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Still devastated by Bertrand’s reaction to her pregnancy, Julia decides she can’t handle going into the office. Instead she calls Franck Lévy and asks... (full context)
Chapter 32
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Still in her meeting with Lévy, Julia asks him to help her trace the family that lived in the rue de Saintonge... (full context)
Chapter 34
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Julia stops by the rue de Bretagne, the location of the garage in which Sarah and... (full context)
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
In the afternoon, Julia meets Bamber so they can visit Beaune-la-Rolande together. Bamber asks if Julia is okay and... (full context)
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Julia and Bamber arrive in Beaune-la-Rolande and tour the town and train station, which has been... (full context)
Chapter 36
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
Julia and Bamber visit the cemetery at Beaune-la-Rolande. Seeing the graves of children makes Julia determined... (full context)
Chapter 38
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
Julia recalls her phone call with her sister, in which Charla suggested Bertrand might be going... (full context)
Chapter 40
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
Through tears, Edouard describes the day of Sarah’s return to Julia. He can’t remember what was done with Michel’s body but he recalls his father, André... (full context)
Chapter 41
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
From this point on, all chapters focus on Julia’s storyline. At the doctor’s office, Julia makes several appointments, though for what is not specified.... (full context)
Chapter 42
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Inside the file, Julia finds twelve letters to André Tézac from Jules Dufaure, each containing updates on Sarah’s wellbeing.... (full context)
Chapter 43
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
It is revealed that Julia has scheduled an abortion, which will take place on July 16th, the same day as... (full context)
Chapter 44
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
It is July 15th and Julia waits at the abortion clinic. She has told no one about the abortion, except for... (full context)
Chapter 45
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Julia stays the night in the abortion clinic in preparation for her procedure, as per her... (full context)
Chapter 46
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
Julia attends the Vel’ d’Hiv’ commemoration with Guillaume. She has to resist the urge to scan... (full context)
Chapter 47
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
When she gets home from her meeting with Nathalie and Gaspard in Orléans, Julia lies down, exhausted. She receives a phone call from Charla. When she learns that Julia... (full context)
Chapter 48
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
The narration jumps backward in chronological order, to describe Julia’s conversation with Gaspard. Gaspard and Nicolas grew up as Sarah’s brothers, having been told that... (full context)
Chapter 49
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
The narration jumps ahead again. Julia receives a phone call from Zoë, who is eager to know what progress Julia has... (full context)
Chapter 50
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
The narration returns to Julia’s meeting with Gaspard. Gaspard says that the last time his grandparents heard from Sarah was... (full context)
Chapter 51
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
At home, Julia reads the letter given to her by Gaspard. She shares it with Edouard over the... (full context)
Chapter 52
Guilt Theme Icon
Julia now receives a phone call from Joshua. He praises her for the attention her article... (full context)
Chapter 53
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
The final phone call Julia receives that evening is from Nathalie, who says she has found Sarah’s final letter, in... (full context)
Chapter 54
Guilt Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Bertrand hugs Julia and tells her he has heard from the doctor that she decided against the abortion.... (full context)
Chapter 55
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Later that night, having found the file containing Sarah’s papers, Bertrand confronts Julia. “You just can’t help it, can you?” he says. “You just can’t leave the past... (full context)
Chapter 56
Identity Theme Icon
Julia leaves for New York City, “propelled back across the Atlantic like a piece of steel... (full context)
Chapter 57
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Julia is thrilled to be reunited with Charla. In her sister’s New York City apartment, Julia... (full context)
Chapter 58
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Julia sits in her car outside the Rainsferd home in Roxbury, Connecticut. She agonizes over what... (full context)
Chapter 59
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The woman greets Julia warmly in Italian-accented English. Bewildered, Julia makes to leave, saying she has “the wrong Mrs.... (full context)
Chapter 60
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
Julia phones Joshua and asks for an advance on her paycheck, saying she is taking her... (full context)
Chapter 61
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
In Lucca, Julia and Zoë make their way to the hotel. Julia worries it was crazy to travel... (full context)
Chapter 62
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
In her hotel, Julia puts her feet up to ease the pain in her belly. She reflects on her... (full context)
Chapter 63
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Julia and Zoë go out to dinner, and when they return to the hotel they find... (full context)
Chapter 64
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
Julia awakens the next day with intense abdominal pain. Putting it out of her mind, she... (full context)
Chapter 65
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
As William stares at the photograph of Sarah, Julia realizes that Sarah “had never told her son about who she really was” because she... (full context)
Chapter 66
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
Julia awakens in a hospital and receives the good news that her baby is fine. Zoë... (full context)
Chapter 67
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
A few weeks later, Julia is back in Paris on bed rest. Edouard visits every Friday. He is as distressed... (full context)
Chapter 68
Guilt Theme Icon
Julia’s due date approaches. Bertrand has decided to delay moving to the rue de Saintonge apartment... (full context)
Chapter 69
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Julia visits the rue de Saintonge apartment, which is nearly fully renovated, and wonders if she... (full context)
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Julia hears a knock at the door and opens it to find William Rainsferd looking “gaunt,... (full context)
Chapter 70
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Julia visits Mamé, along with William, Bertrand, Colette, Edouard, Laure, and Cécile. After the family is... (full context)
Chapter 71
Guilt Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
...home, William asks to hear his mother’s story. The two go to a café, where Julia tells the story and then translates Sarah’s diary, which is written in French. In it,... (full context)
Chapter 72
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
William reveals that Sarah killed herself by driving her car into a tree. Julia is at a loss for words, and although she wishes she could take William’s hand,... (full context)
Chapter 73
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Julia arrives home to find the entire Tézac family, along with Bertrand and Zoë, waiting in... (full context)
Chapter 74
Identity Theme Icon
The narrative jumps to the year 2005. Julia, Zoë, and Julia’s two-year-old daughter (young Sarah) now live in New York City. Julia has... (full context)
Chapter 75
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Julia watches her daughters play in the park, reflecting on the recent changes in her life.... (full context)
Chapter 76
Identity Theme Icon
Though Bertrand was not thrilled at the prospect of Julia and Zoë moving, Julia insisted the move would not be permanent. Initially, Julia and Zoë... (full context)
Chapter 77
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Julia finds herself missing Paris, particularly “the way French men check women out.” She feels she... (full context)
Chapter 78
Identity Theme Icon
Zoë catches Julia googling William Rainsferd. Julia abashedly admits that she has looked William up “regularly in the... (full context)
Chapter 79
Guilt Theme Icon
Julia keeps herself busy, working and meeting new people. She has trouble sleeping, dreaming often about... (full context)
Chapter 80
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The sixtieth commemoration of Auschwitz’s liberation in January of 2005 causes Julia to wonder even more acutely about William. Along with Charla and Zoë, Julia watches the... (full context)
Chapter 81
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
One day in May, Julia receives a phone call from William, who asks if she would like to meet for... (full context)
Chapter 82
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
At the café William and Julia exchange pleasantries. William takes a brief phone call and explains to Julia that it was... (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
After looking at the photos, Julia hesitantly asks William if he has any “harsh feelings” toward her. He says he doesn’t,... (full context)
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Julia relaxes, again experiencing the distinct, quiet comfort of William’s company. William discusses his children and... (full context)