Summary and Analysis
Agonizing over her husband’s coming departure, Vianne visits her best friend, Rachel. Rachel’s husband is also going to war, and Rachel wonders if her newborn son, Ari, will remember his father. Vianne and Rachel try to think of positive things about their husbands’ departures (like smaller loads of laundry), agreeing that they will need to be strong for each other while their husbands are gone.
On the morning of his departure, Antoine suggests that Vianne and Sophie should go to live with Vianne’s father, Julien, in Paris. Vianne refuses, insisting that Antoine will be home soon. Vianne and Sophie ride the train with Antoine to the temporary military headquarters, where he bids them farewell.
Once she learns that her father is leaving, Sophie begins taking comfort in once-discarded objects that remind her of him. She sleeps with her pink stuffed teddy bear, Bébé, even though she had cast him aside a year earlier. She also asks to wear a crumpled crown of daisies that her father made for her during their picnic. The wilted daisies, once beautiful and now past their prime, suggest the loss of beauty, an ominous symbol for Antoine’s departure.
Vianne begins to meditate on what becomes one of the novel’s recurring themes: how war changes the nature of love. As she and Antoine declare their love for each other during their farewell, Vianne notices how inadequate those words seem within the context of war’s enormity. She tries to suppress her memories of the last war because they only seem to add to the weight of the present, making her own meager feelings of love and hope feel insubstantial.