Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff
An ambitious novel that spans decades and continents, The Things We Cherished tells the story of Charlotte Gold and Jack Warrington, two fiercely independent attorneys who find themselves slowly falling for one another while working together on a major case. Roger Dykmans, a wealthy financier and the brother of a Holocaust hero, has been accused of World War II-era war crimes, including the betrayal of his brother, Hans, and the Jews Hans tried to save. Charlotte and Jack set out to prove these charges false.
But Roger refuses to help with his own defense, revealing only that the proof of his innocence lies inside an intricate time piece that was last seen in Nazi Germany. The mystery unfolds through the eyes of those the clock has touched across Europe over the past century, from a young Jewish couple struggling for a better life in turn-of-the-century Bavaria, to two brothers caught up in the political turmoil of Weimar Berlin, to Roger in World War II Breslau, who experiences true but forbidden love under the worst of circumstances.
All the while Charlotte resists her feelings for Jack, not willing to risk emotional devastation again -- particularly by the estranged brother of the man who once broke her heart. But as they near the truth about the affair that may have turned a brother into a traitor, Jack and Charlotte are forced to face their own complex past and admit that theirs is the type of love that might just go down in history.
I confess that I began The Things We Cherished fully predisposed to fall for the story and the characters. Historical fiction set during World War II, a Holocaust hero who loses his life while saving Jews in Germany, "fiercely independent attorneys who find themselves slowly falling for one another", and a heart-wrenching, life altering love story -- a recipe for a fascinating and engrossing read.
In fact, I started the book yesterday as I traveled from NYC to Boston. It was the perfect escape for the four and a half hour trip. I've convinced my mom to read the book on her 19 hour trip back to Manila next week.
Here's what I enjoyed about The Things We Cherished and why I recommend that you read it too:
Pam Jenoff has created complex, sympathetic, and engaging characters -- both those that lived during World War II and those lawyers living in the present -- and Jenoff forces each of the characters to face nuanced, big picture dilemmas while keeping the characters real. Jenoff has taken great care to make each of the people that you meet memorable. One of my favorites is a less central character, a clockmaker named Johann who lived in a small town in Bavaria in 1902. Johann advances the materials to create a one of a kind anniversary clock in the hope that the wealthiest man in their small town will make good on his order and that this will enable him to take his pregnant wife Rebecca to America. The clock is his chance to make a new start, just as the town's economy seems to be collapsing. When he's completed the clock, he dresses in his best clothes and brings his work to the merchant. When the wealthy Herr Hoffel refuses to pay the agreed 100 because business is slow, it takes courage and a sense of his own worth for Johann to refuse the offer. The scene comes early in the book and as I read it, Johann reminded me of the father in Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief, one of my favorite literary characters.
Jenoff takes seemingly unconnected story lines that are each interesting on their own and weaves them together to make this deeply engrossing and satisfying read.
ISBN-10: 0385534205 - Hardcover $27.95
Publisher: Doubleday (July 12, 2011), 304 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
About the Author:
Pam Jenoff is the author of The Kommandant's Girl, The Diplomat's Wife, Almost Home, and A Hidden Affair. She attended George Washington University, Cambridge University in the U.K., where she received a master's degree in history; and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. A former Foreign Service officer and special assistant to the secretary of the army at the Pentagon, she lives near Philadelphia, where she teaches law.
Double Day is generously sponsoring a giveaway of 2 copies of The Things We Cherish. To enter the giveaway, please share your favorite character in literature and why you like him/her so much.
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The contest is limited to US only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on Aug. 14, 2011.