Summary and Analysis Chapter 29



Isabelle and Gaëtan spend a passionate week together away from the war effort. Meanwhile, Vianne and her children encounter a group of Jews being taken away to concentration camps. A woman named Hélène Ruelle asks Vianne to take her two sons in order to rescue them from the camps. The older son refuses to leave his mother, but Vianne takes the younger son, Jean Georges, despite the risk of being caught helping a Jew.

Returning home with Jean Georges, they meet Von Richter. Vianne, thinking quickly, says that Jean Georges’ mother just died of tuberculosis. She takes him to the orphanage and asks Mother Marie-Therese to look after him, promising to provide new identity papers for him. The nun agrees and suggests that Vianne could bring her more Jewish children.


Vianne has been slowly making the transition toward becoming part of the resistance movement, and her status as a resister is confirmed in this chapter. Her acts of resistance along the way—hiding Rachel, adopting Ari, killing Beck, bringing Isabelle to the border—finally culminate in the moment Marie-Therese asks her to lead the effort of rescuing Jewish children and bringing them to the orphanage. Vianne’s good deeds can no longer be dismissed as momentary rule-breaking; she has now become a rebel.

Whereas Vianne previously refused to take such a risk for Sophie’s sake, she finally decides that her resistance makes her a better mother than her compliance with the Germans ever could have. Instead of focusing on Sophie’s physical well-being, she justifies her decision by prioritizing Sophie’s ethical well-being: “How can I let her believe it’s all right to do nothing in times such as these?”

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