Sarah’s Key

Sarah’s Key

William Rainsferd Character Analysis

Son of Richard Rainsferd and Sarah Starzynski. When Julia first meets him, William is living in Lucca, Italy, with his wife, Francesca, and their daughters, Stefania and Giustina. William is described as being very handsome and sharing his mother’s eyes, which are “turquoise and slanted.” When she meets with William to discuss Sarah, Julia finds that William knows nothing about his mother’s past. He believes Sarah’s maiden name was Dufaure and that she grew up in Orléans. William becomes extremely angry, telling Julia to keep “the whole story” to herself and ordering her not to contact him again. Eventually, William turns up at Julia’s apartment in Paris. Having discovered his mother’s journal, along with the key to the secret cupboard in which his uncle Michel died, William is finally ready to hear what Julia has to say. By the end of the novel, William, like Julia, is divorced and living in New York City. The novel closes with the image of William and Julia clasping hands and crying together in a coffee shop.

William Rainsferd Quotes in Sarah’s Key

The Sarah’s Key quotes below are all either spoken by William Rainsferd or refer to William Rainsferd. 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 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:
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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:
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William Rainsferd Character Timeline in Sarah’s Key

The timeline below shows where the character William Rainsferd appears in Sarah’s Key. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 59
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
...she cannot speak—but her hopes revive when the Italian woman mentions a boy, Sarah’s son, William. William’s mother, whose name is Mara, proudly tells Julia that William now lives in Italy,... (full context)
Chapter 60
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
...Julia that she is pregnant and probably shouldn’t be traveling. She also warns Julia that William might not want to be reminded of his mother. Undeterred, Julia looks forward to leaving... (full context)
Chapter 62
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
...months and wonders if this is because of Sarah. Though she is eager to meet William, she is too nervous to phone him. Zoë gives Julia the encouragement she needs, and... (full context)
Chapter 63
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
...return to the hotel they find a note on their door, asking that they call William Rainsferd. Julia does so, and she and William arrange to meet at noon the following... (full context)
Chapter 64
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
...abdominal pain. Putting it out of her mind, she takes Zoë into town to meet William. When William arrives at the café, Julia is speechless, touched by the fact that William... (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... (full context)
Chapter 66
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
...with her and Bertrand is on his way. In the wake of her conversation with William, Julia feels utterly lost. After he arrives, Bertrand takes care of all the details of... (full context)
Chapter 67
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
...Edouard visits every Friday. He is as distressed as Julia over how the visit with William played out. Julia gets her doctor’s approval to host a dinner party, to which she... (full context)
Chapter 68
Guilt Theme Icon
...Julia’s difficult pregnancy. Julia feels trapped in this extended waiting. She wonders obsessively about how William is processing what she told him about his mother. (full context)
Chapter 69
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Julia hears a knock at the door and opens it to find William Rainsferd looking “gaunt, haunted.” Julia confusedly inquires how William got the rue de Saintonge address,... (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 informed that Mamé’s condition has... (full context)
Chapter 71
Guilt Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
In the hall of the nursing home, William asks to hear his mother’s story. The two go to a café, where Julia tells... (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... (full context)
Chapter 73
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
...done the right thing, and the family disperses. That evening Julia lies awake thinking of William. Zoë sneaks into Julia’s room and falls asleep with her mother. Though Julia feels peaceful... (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 past year,”... (full context)
Chapter 79
Guilt Theme Icon
...about Paris and “the horrors of the past.” She also finds herself constantly thinking of William’s eyes and face. (full context)
Chapter 80
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
...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 commemoration ceremony on TV, marveling at 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 coffee in a half hour. Hardly... (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... (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, and that he... (full context)
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
Julia relaxes, again experiencing the distinct, quiet comfort of William’s company. William discusses his children and asks about Julia’s baby. He is under the impression... (full context)