Please describe Julia and Bertrand's marriage in Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The marriage between Julia Jarmond and Bertrand Tézac in Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is not a happy one.

Julia is an American, and Bertrand's French family hold that against her, even after she has lived in Paris for twenty-five years and has been married to a Frenchman for several decades. Her husband does not treat her well, but she accepts that as her due. He is a tease and a flirt, but she is moved by his looks and his charm. She knows that her husband has been cheating on her for years, and she accepts that, too. It is not until she discovers, at the age of forty-five, that she is pregnant. 

Bertrand Tézac is a handsome Frenchman and a successful architect. He knows he can usually "buy" his way out of any situation with his handsomeness and his charming personality, and he is right. He blatantly keeps a mistress and is not happy that his wife is pregnant. Bertrand believes he is too old for fatherhood and insists that his wife get an abortion--and assumes that she will, simply because he tells her to do so.

They have a fourteen-year-old daughter and, as far as others can tell, their lives are pleasant enough. Others are wrong. 

It is the great liberation of Julia's life to determine--on her own and despite the pressures of her husband--to have her child. In the meantime, Julia investigates a family secret and causes a rift in the Tézac family. Bertrand would rather not know anything and is concerned only about himself, as always. Julia wonders:

When would he realize that it wasn't his infidelity I couldn't bear, but his cowardice? 

One day Bertrand finally admits he loves his mistress; it is a miserable conversation for him, and he is “drained and wrecked" by the end of it. He expected Julia to stage a scene of some kind in order to keep him, but Julia is calm.

Julia has her child on her own and is content.