Summary and Analysis Chapter 39



In 1995, the elderly woman and her son, Julien, arrive in Paris for the passeurs’ reunion. She insists on walking from her hotel room to the reunion despite the distance. When they arrive, everyone takes notice of her entrance, and she is called up to the podium. She begins speaking about her sister, Isabelle. As she speaks, she remembers the deaths of Isabelle and her daughter, Sophie.

After the event concludes, Vianne meets Gaëtan, who has named his daughter Isabelle. She then sees Ari de Champlain, who has been searching for her for years. Her son, Julien, who knows none of his mother’s history, asks her to tell him everything, and she promises she will—with the exception of one secret.


When the elderly woman speaks of her sister, Isabelle, Vianne’s identity finally becomes clear. Julien, therefore, is the child she conceived after she was repeatedly raped by Von Richter, the child with whom she was pregnant when Isabelle died. The identity of Julien’s biological father is the one secret she says she will keep from Julien, the same secret that has kept her from telling him any of her wartime story.

One of the most prominent themes in this final chapter is what makes life worth living in the face of death. Vianne says in her speech that Isabelle’s work saving airmen’s lives made Isabelle’s own life valuable. Likewise, Ari affirms the importance of Vianne’s life when he tells Julien about the nineteen Jewish children she saved. Another force that gives value to life is love: Gaëtan’s love for Isabelle and Vianne’s love for Julien have transformed both of their lives and made them meaningful.

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