The Things We Cherished: A Novel

The Things We Cherished: A Novel

by Pam Jenoff

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Pam Jenoff, whose first novel, The Kommandant’s Girl, was a Quill Award finalist, a Book Sense pick, and a finalist for the ALA Sophie Brody Award, joins the Doubleday list with a suspenseful story of love and betrayal set during the Holocaust.

An ambitious novel that spans decades and continents, The Things We Cherished tells the story of Charlotte Gold and Jack Harrington, two fiercely independent attor­neys who find themselves slowly falling for one another while working to defend the brother of a Holocaust hero against allegations of World War II–era war crimes.

The defendant, wealthy financier Roger Dykmans, mysteri­ously refuses to help in his own defense, revealing only that proof of his innocence lies within an intricate timepiece last seen in Nazi Germany. As the narrative moves from Philadelphia to Germany, Poland, and Italy, we are given glimpses of the lives that the anniversary clock has touched over the past century, and learn about the love affair that turned a brother into a traitor.

Rich in historical detail, Jenoff’s astonishing new work is a testament to true love under the worst of circumstances.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385534215
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/12/2011
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 4,188
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

PAM JENOFF is the author of The Kommandant’s Girl, The Diplomat’s Wife, Almost Home, and Hidden Things. She attended George Washington Univer­sity, Cambridge University in England, where she received a master’s in history, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. A former Special Assis­tant to the Secretary of the Army and State Department officer, she lives in Philadelphia, where she works as an attorney.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


Philadelphia, 2009

"You know, don't you, that you're looking at twenty-five to life?" Charlotte peered over the top of the file at the seventeen-year-old with the rows of tiny braids who slouched in the chair on the other side of the graffiti-covered table, staring intently at his sneakers.

The preliminary hearing had not gone well. Charlotte had hoped that the judge would take one look at Marquan's baby face, with its wide smooth cheeks and the unblinking almond-shaped eyes, and know that he was not a danger to anyone, that he did not belong here. She thought that Judge Annette D'Amici, who herself had once been a public defender, might have a soft spot for a teenager with no record of prior violence who was about the same age as her grandchildren. But in a streak of phenomenally bad luck, Judge D'Amici had called in sick, replaced for the day by Paul Rodgers. Rodgers, a political wannabe who viewed the bench as a stepping-stone to a higher state office, had earned a reputation as a hanging judge during his first term. He barely glanced at Marquan before banging his gavel and remanding him to the juvenile wing of the city prison.

Normally, Charlotte would have chalked the hearing up as a loss and gone on to her next file and courtroom, dispensing with the morning's caseload. But Marquan was different. They had met almost two years earlier when he'd been a scared fifteen-year-old brought in on a petty drug charge. There was a sparkle that told her he had intelligence, a quiet dignity in his perfect posture and the way he looked at her with those somber brown eyes, seeming to see right through. He had promise. She'd done all the things she usually didn't get to do with a docket of thousands of cases per year: getting Marquan into a first-time offenders' track that left him with no permanent record, as well as an after-school mentoring program in his neighborhood. So why was he sitting here now, dull-eyed and hardened, facing a murder charge for a carjacking gone wrong?

Because it simply wasn't enough. The after-school programs amounted to only a few hours per week, a drop in an ocean of poverty and drugs and violence and boredom in which these kids had to swim every night on the streets. There had been a police chase that ended with an SUV crushed against the pavement steps of a row house, two small children pinned fatally beneath its wheels. Marquan hadn't meant to hurt anyone; of that she was certain. He had a little brother the same age as those kids, whom he walked to school every day, escorted home again each evening. No, he had simply been along for the ride when the stupid plan was hatched and he didn't have the strength or good sense to say no.

Charlotte drummed the edge of the table, running her fingers along a heart that someone had carved into the wood with a knife. "If you would testify," she began. There had been three boys in the car, but Marquan was the only one who had not fled the scene. "I mean, if you're willing to say who was there with you . . ."

She did not finish the sentence, knowing the proposal was futile. No one talked where Marquan came from. don't snitch! screamed the brazen T_shirts of the kids she passed in the Gallery food court at lunch, kids ditching school and hanging out, waiting for trouble to find them. Snitching meant never going home again, never closing your eyes and knowing if you or your loved ones would be safe. Marquan would sooner take the sentence.

She exhaled sharply, glancing up at the water-stained ceiling. "Anything you want to tell me?" she asked, closing the file, watching for the imperceptible shake of his head. "If you change your mind, or if you need something, have your case officer call me." She pushed back from the table and stood, knocking on the door to be let out.

A few minutes later, Charlotte stepped from the elevator and made her way across the lobby of the Criminal Justice Center, thronged with prospective jurors and families of the victims and the accused who pushed past the metal detector toward the security desk for information. On the street, she swam through a cloud of cigarette smoke left by courthouse clerks lingering before the start of their day, then paused, her eyes traveling left toward the hulking Reading Terminal Market. A walk through the open stalls, a gastronomic world's fair touting everything from Amish delicacies to lo mein and cheesesteaks, would have been just the thing to clear her head, but there wasn't time.

As she reached the busy intersection beneath the shadow of City Hall, William Penn peering down piously from his perch atop the tower, Charlotte paused, inhaling the crisp late-September air. There were only a few days like this each fall in Philadelphia, before the persistent humidity of summer gave way to the cold rainy winter.

Still thinking of Marquan, Charlotte entered the office building. On the sixth floor, she stepped out of the elevator and proceeded down the drab corridor. The voice of section chief Mitch Ramirez, arguing with a prosecutor, bellowed through an open doorway. "Are you going to fucking tell me_._._._?" Charlotte smiled as she passed. Mitch was a legend among the defenders, a seventy-two-year-old dinosaur who had marched in the civil rights protests of the sixties and could still go toe to toe with the best of them when he thought his client was getting a raw deal.

She stopped before the door to her office, indiscernible from the others she had just passed. It wasn't much; a glorified closet, really, with a small desk and two chairs wedged close together-a far cry from the marble and mahogany suite she'd had when she was a summer associate at a large New York firm. But it was all hers. It had taken two years just to get it, to fight her way out of the pit of rookie defenders who shared the sea of cubicles one floor below and have a door that closed so she could hear herself think.

Charlotte reached for the handle, then stopped, studying it. The door was ajar. She was certain that she had closed it when she left for court that morning, but perhaps one of the other attorneys had dropped off a file. As she stepped inside, her breath caught.

There, in the narrow chair across from her desk, sat her ex-boyfriend.

"Brian?" she asked, as though unsure of his name. The word came out in a croak.

He stood, unfolding from the chair. Brian had the tall, broad- shouldered frame that fashion houses paid good money for, brown hair that flopped improbably to his forehead no matter how many times he got it cut to a shorter, more professional length. Despite the muscular arms that suggested a threat on the basketball court, he conveyed an air of vulnerability that implied he might cry at a chick flick and made women want to take care of him.

Looking at him now, it was almost possible to forget that he had broken her heart.

"Hello, Charlotte," he said, his use of her full name a reminder of the years that had come and gone since their last meeting. He bent to kiss her and a hint of his familiar Burberry cologne tickled her nose, sending her places she had hoped never to go again. "You're looking well." He brushed off his legs, his expensive suit woefully out of place in her tiny drab office. She was suddenly self-conscious about her black knit pantsuit, practical and unflattering. His Chanel- and-heels wife would not have been caught dead in it.

He waited for her to speak, then filled the silence when she did not. "I didn't mean to startle you. Your secretary let me in."

She did not, Charlotte reminded herself, have a secretary. He must have been referring to Doreen, the office admin. Doreen was usually too busy updating her Facebook page to help visitors, but it was easy to see how Brian might have charmed her into unlocking the office and letting him wait. She studied him again. There was a paunch that bespoke too many overpriced steakhouse dinners, missed visits to the racquet club he once frequented daily. But he still had that appeal that had sucked her in almost a decade ago-that had gotten her in trouble in the first place.

She took a deep breath, centered herself. "What are you doing here?"

His expression changed as he processed the new rules of the game: pleasantries were to be dispensed with, business stated. "I'm in town for work and I was hoping to talk to you about something."

You've left Danielle, she thought suddenly. Realized after all these years that you made a fatal mistake, that I was the one. The scenario rushed through her head: his profuse apologies and tears, her eventual gracious acceptance and forgiveness. It would be messy, of course. There was the divorce, the question of whether to reside here or in New York. "About a case I'm working on," he added.

The vision evaporated, a raindrop on a warm, humid day, so quickly gone she might have imagined it. So this isn't about us after all, she thought, feeling very foolish. Brian wanted something, but it wasn't her.

"Let me buy you lunch?" he asked.

She shook her head. Thirty seconds around Brian and he was already toying with her mind. She needed to get as far away from him as possible. "I can't. I'm due back in court in half an hour."

"Of course. Dinner then. Does six work?" She could see him calculating the time that the meal might take, whether he could make the nine o'clock train back to Manhattan. Back to Danielle. Her stomach twisted, the bile undiluted by the years.

For a second she considered taking back an ounce of the control that had been stolen from her all those years ago and declining his last- minute invitation. She might have plans after all. Usually they consisted of nothing more than Thai takeout in front of the television, a hot night of CSI reruns with her cat, Mitzi, but he didn't have to know that. Her curiosity was piqued, though. Did Brian really have business in Philadelphia or had he come all this way just to see her? And what on earth could it be about?

"All right," she replied, trying to sound casual.

"Buddakan?" The choice was an obvious out-of-towner selection, one of the pricey Stephen Starr restaurants that received national attention and spawned a clone of the venue in New York. The furthest thing possible from the quiet BYOBs she loved, like the Northern Italian one in Greenwich Village they had frequented as students, its name faded with the years.

She considered suggesting an alternative venue like Santori's, a Greek trattoria in her neighborhood, with its gorgeous hummus plate and complimentary ouzo shot at the end of the meal. But this was not a social call and she didn't need Brian invading that part of her world. "Fine."

"I'll let you work then," he said, walking from the office, not looking back. That was Brian. He treated life like a movie set-when he left a scene, the lights went out and it simply ceased to exist.

It was not until the door closed behind him that she sank to the chair, trying not to shake.

They had met during law school while interning with the war crimes tribunal at The Hague, assisting with the prosecution of genocide in the former Yugoslavia. She could still remember walking into the tiny Dutch bar, and seeing Brian for the first time. He was holding court amidst a semicircle of other interns, mostly female. She'd stood there for several seconds, staring at him in spite of herself. Though she could not hear what he was saying, there was something in the way he spoke that captivated her, a confident manner that seemed larger than life. His head turned in her direction. Embarrassed, she started to look away, but then his gaze caught hers and she was paralyzed, unable to move.

A minute later, he broke from his minions and made his way to Charlotte, holding out a second beer as though he'd been waiting for her. "Brian Warrington."

"Charlotte Gold," she managed, trying not to stammer.

"I know. You're the Root Tilden from NYU, right?" She hesitated, taken aback. She had not expected him to know who she was or that she'd received the prestigious public-interest fellowship. "I'm at Columbia. I think we're both assigned to the Dukovic case. Your memo on the evidentiary issue was very impressive." She fought the urge to swoon. "I'd like to get your take on one of my witnesses." Just then, the jazz band that had been setting up in the corner started to play and the voices around them were raised to a din. "There's a little bistro just down the street that's quieter. Want to go get something to eat?" Too surprised to answer, Charlotte nodded and followed him from the bar, feeling the stares of the other interns behind her.

After that, they were inseparable. They fell in love over Belgian beer and heated debates about the efficacy of the proposed International Criminal Court. When they returned to Manhattan that fall, she abandoned her Greenwich Village dorm room, accepting his invitation to move into his Upper West Side apartment.

Though it had not been obvious from their egalitarian Dutch housing, she quickly realized once back home that Brian was wealthy. She found herself swept along to warm fall weekends in the Hamptons, holidays at his parents' estate in Chappaqua. She spent less time at school, traveling downtown only for classes. They made plans for after graduation, fellowships with the UN, a short engagement.

Her idyllic world came crashing to a halt in December when she traveled to Philadelphia for what was supposed to be a brief holiday visit with her mother, Winnie, a retired math teacher. The first morning over breakfast, her mother broke the news that she had been keeping until after Charlotte finished final exams: small-cell lung cancer brought on, she suspected, by a smoking habit abandoned years earlier. By the time the persistent cough she'd taken to be allergies had sent her for a chest X-ray it was too late-she was stage four and had just months to live.

Winnie refused to let her take the semester off, so Charlotte commuted back and forth every weekend on Amtrak, watching with disbelief the speed with which her once-strong mother deteriorated. Brian offered to come along, of course, but she always declined, embarrassed to have him see the tiny suburban condo with its dilapidated furniture and yellowed walls. He didn't fight her on it but retreated gracefully, glad to be excused from the messiness of a life not his own. The time apart and her constant worry began to take its toll on their relationship and by March, when her mother had been discharged a final time to hospice care, Charlotte returned to New York to find a strange tube of lipstick beneath the vanity in the bathroom. Later she would wonder if perhaps he left it there purposely, a final act of passive-aggressiveness designed to hasten things to their inevitable conclusion.

She had confronted him that gray afternoon, hoping for denial or at least an explanation, ready to forgive. It was a day still damp and chilly enough to be called winter, their breath foggy in front of them as they clutched Styrofoam cups of coffee that neither actu­ally drank. He looked down at the bench in the southeast corner of Washington Square Park that they had shared in happier times, now defiled because it would always be remembered for this. His face seemed a caricature of itself, drawn and weak. As he started to talk, she braced herself for the platitudes, that they had grown apart, it was just one of those things.
“I’ve met someone,” he said bluntly.
A rock slammed into her stomach. “Her name’s Danielle,” he continued. “She went to Harvard, two years ahead of us.” Of course. Because she couldn’t have been someone vacuous and trite. An image flashed through her mind of the holiday party at the firm where Brian was clerking this year. Through the haze of worry and despair over her mother, Charlotte recalled a sleek blond junior associate, a conversation about summer houses to which she could not at all relate.
“I’m sorry,” he finished. There were a thousand questions she wanted to ask about why and when and how. But he was already throwing his cup in the trash and straightening his coat, eager to move on to this new chapter of his life.
Three weeks later, she would learn the rest of the story. She opened the Sunday Times over breakfast and saw the engagement announcement, the happy couple staring back at her, Danielle’s smile wider and more perfect than she remembered. She was flooded with disbelief. In the weeks since Brian told her about his new relationship, Charlotte had consoled herself over pints of Häagen-Dazs and bottles of wine, telling herself that it was noth­ing serious. Danielle was just the rebound until he figured things out. But in that moment, the truth came home to roost: Brian and Danielle were engaged. How long had they been seeing each other behind her back?
Unable to look away, she forced herself to continue reading. And somewhere between learning that Brian’s grandfather had been CEO of a Fortune 250 company and that the bride would be keeping her name, she felt a sudden sense of release, like the air being let out of a balloon. She was relieved to have been excused from a world where she did not belong, a student given permission to change majors or drop a class that was too hard.
Giving up the rest was easy after that, and she turned down the fellowship to The Hague that she had been scheduled to start after graduation. Instead, she applied for and got the public defender position, returning to Philadelphia and slipping into the city like a pair of comfy old shoes.
That night at five minutes to six, Charlotte stepped out of a cab at Third and Chestnut and glanced down the street in both directions. Old City, once the province of Ben Franklin and the Founding Fathers, was now Philadelphia’s version of trendy and she seldom ventured down to the endless rows of hip bars and restaurants that maligned the Federalist architecture of the neigh­borhood. Two blocks west, laughter spilled over from the throngs of tourists departing Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell as they boarded their motor coaches for home. A swath of parkland across the street sat in improbable late-day stillness, sunlight slat­ting through the crisp leaves.
Charlotte paused, wishing she’d been able to override her nor­mal tendencies and arrive casually late. For a minute she consid­ered circling the block, stalling for time to compose herself. But there was no point in delaying the inevitable—the sooner she met with Brian, the sooner she could put him and his devilish green eyes back on that train to New York.
As she approached the restaurant, she studied her reflection in the glass window of an adjacent store, smoothing her shoulder-length brown hair. There hadn’t been time to go home—the modest Queen Village townhouse she’d bought before the neigh­borhood had become fashionable was a  thirty- five-minute walk from the office, pleasant enough on a nice day, but too far in the wrong direction to make it before dinner. So after work she had stopped in Macy’s, the city’s one surviving department store. Resisting the urge to buy a new outfit entirely, she settled instead for a crème silk blouse to replace the knit top she’d worn previously under her suit and some makeup and perfume from samples at the Clinique counter.
Inside, Charlotte lingered uncertainly by the reservation desk, adjusting her eyes to the dimmer lighting. The Asian fusion restau­rant was a cavernous sea of tables, walls draped in red silk, a mas­sive gold Buddha statue dominating one side of the room. A dozen or more chefs bustled behind clouds of steam in the open kitchen to the rear. At the bar to the left, young twentysomethings tried to impress one another over brightly colored ten-dollar cocktails.
“Can I help you?” the hostess asked without interest. Charlotte did not answer but scanned the room, spotting Brian at a table to the rear. That was unexpected; early was not his style, the notion of waiting for others unpalatable to him. As she approached, he stood, hurriedly tucking a BlackBerry into his jacket pocket.
“Thanks for joining me,” he said, sounding like he meant it.
She studied the menu the waitress handed her as she sat, grate­ful for the reprieve. “Grey Goose martini, up, extra olives,” she said. She did not usually drink hard liquor on a work night, but the cir­cumstances called for an exception.
“Same,” he said, surprising her again. Brian was strictly a beer drinker, or had been anyway.
“So you’re in town for a case?” she asked when the waitress had returned with their drinks and taken their dinner order, a lobster pad thai for her, sesame tuna for him. He did not, she noticed, order an appetizer, further evidence of his hurry to get back to New York and Danielle. Pain stabbed at her stomach as she relived the rejection of a decade ago all over again. But she had not asked for this meeting, she reminded herself; he wanted to see her. “Deposi­tions?” She was suddenly aware of her own Philadelphia accent, the way she seemed to have gone vocally native again in the years since she had returned.
“Just passing through,” he replied, his own pronunciation devoid of geographical markings. “I had a meeting in Washington this morning.” He was usually so precise, but there was a vagueness now to his words that made her wonder if he was telling the truth. Had he come down from New York just to speak with her?
“How have you been?” he asked, and if the question was just a pleasantry, a necessary step to get where he wanted to go, he gave no indication—his face and voice conveyed genuine curios­ity. He had always had the ability to make anyone think he was on their side, sincerely concerned with their best interests—which was exactly what made him so dangerous. She had not suspected any­thing was wrong, until the very moment he told her he was leaving for someone else.
“Great,” she replied, a beat too quickly. She suddenly felt naked, exposed. “I’m working with juveniles . . .” She almost tuned herself out as she rattled on, wearing her job like a cloak. But the work, about which she was usually so passionate, sounded provincial, unsophisticated. “And you?”
“Fine. I just came off a two-month securities trial and we, that is, Dani . . .” He hesitated, as though for a moment he had forgotten the impropriety of speaking about his wife to the woman he had left for her. As though Charlotte were anyone. “Anyway, a vacation would be nice. Maybe Aspen.”
Charlotte imagined the two of them swooshing through the powder in perfect unison. She had always been a train wreck on skis, a menace to herself and those around her. “But then this new matter came up,” he added, as she took a large swallow of her drink, steeling herself. “That’s why I wanted to see you.”
“Me?” she blurted out, louder than intended, nearly choking on the liquid. Brian was a securities litigator, defending lawsuits for the biggest brokerage houses in the country. What kind of matter could he possibly want to discuss with her?
He took a sip of martini, grimacing. “It’s a pro bono matter.”
Charlotte faltered, caught off guard. Pro bono work had never been Brian’s  thing—he had empathy for the less fortunate on an abstract, policy level, a sort of noblesse oblige inherent in his lib­eral,  upper-class background. But he couldn’t deal with the mess­iness that surrounded the actual clientele, the ambiguity of the individual cases. What had he gotten himself into now? It must be something high profile, she decided, a death penalty case, perhaps. Her annoyance rose. Firms were taking those on with increas­ing frequency because of the good press that usually ensued. But despite their resources, they were ill equipped to handle matters requiring such specialized expertise. And now he was here asking her for free advice.
The waitress returned to the table and set a plate in front of Brian. The food was served  family-style, Charlotte recalled from her one previous visit, which seemed code for we-bring­-out-whatever-we-want-whenever-we-feel-like-it. She shook her head as he gestured toward the plate, offering her some. “Go ahead and eat.”
She expected him to reach for his fork and tear into the meal with the gusto she remembered, but he did not. “Have you ever heard of Roger Dykmans?” he asked instead.

She repeated the name inwardly. “I don’t know. The last name, maybe.”
“Roger is a securities client of mine. His brother was Hans Dykmans.”
Hans Dykmans. The full name sparked immediate recognition. “The diplomat?” Hans Dykmans, like Swedish diplomat Raoul Wal­lenberg and German industrialist Oskar Schindler, had been credited with saving thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Like Wallenberg, he was arrested and disappeared mysteriously toward the end of the war.
“Yes. Roger is Hans’s younger brother and the head of a major international brokerage house. Only now he’s been arrested and charged as a war criminal for allegedly helping the Germans.” Brian paused, watching Charlotte’s face for a reaction to the pos­sibility that the brother of a war hero might have been a Nazi col­laborator. But she was not as surprised as he might have expected. She had learned years ago that the extreme circumstances of the war provoked a wide spectrum of reactions, even in the closest of families.
Brian waited until the server put Charlotte’s plate down in front of her before continuing. “Recently, historians uncovered some papers that seem to implicate Roger. They claim he sold out his brother during the war, and that as a result, Hans was arrested and several hundred Jewish children he was trying to save were killed.” Staring down at the scarlet tablecloth, Charlotte recoiled. She herself was the descendant of Holocaust survivors, or more accu­rately, one survivor. Her mother had escaped Hungary as a child, sent on a kindertransport to London and later to relatives in America. But the rest of her mother’s family, her parents and brothers, had all perished in the camps. Many times in Winnie’s lonely final days, Charlotte had wondered how different her life might have been had her mother grown up surrounded by a loving family, rather than distant cousins who took her in out of obligation. Their cool­ness, Charlotte suspected, was what had sent her mother flying into the arms of the first man who ever glanced her way, and who would quickly break her heart, leaving her pregnant and alone.
She looked up at Brian, who was watching her expectantly, wait­ing for some kind of response. “So Dykmans is a Nazi collaborator,” she said finally. “And you’re trying to defend him.”
“Accused collaborator.” He shrugged, taking a bite of his tuna. “He’s my client. I was asked by the partnership to take on the matter.”
“And you’re here for my help,” she concluded, irritated. Did Brian not remember her family history or simply not care what the nature of his request would mean to her? “Why me?”

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The Things We Cherished 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Icecream18 More than 1 year ago
The story describes two love triangles - a century apart. Today's lawyers, the Warrington brothers and Charlotte Gold, are tasked with the defense of Roger Dykmans who loved his brother's wife Magda during the Holocaust. The narrative is woven around the tale of a handcrafted timepiece which has a heartbreaking past of its own. Young adult and adult readers may enjoy the mystery of the clock's evidence as a defense against the horrible crime of betraying a brother and innocent children to the Nazis. The love stories convey elation, uncertainty, longing, and denial. The author easily navigates from one time period to another with well-written dialogue and prose. The characters are both relatable and sympathetic, the reader will enjoy them. The plot is horrifying yet interesting, the reader's attention will be held.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a well-written book and a fast read with a captivating story. In one present-day storyline, two brothers and a woman are caught up in a love triangle while defending an elderly man of World War II-era war crimes. In another storyline set in Nazi Germany, two brothers and a woman are also caught up in a love triangle. And in several other storylines, the reader peeks into various lives that were connected to an anniversary clock, which is also connected to the two love triangles. It sounds complicated, but the author pulls it off nicely, resulting in an interesting story. The only problem is that it is hard to identify with the people in the present-day love story because their story seems trite and their separation pointless when compared to the story that takes place during the horrors of World War II. Nonetheless, it is an interesting story that those who enjoy World War II fiction will surely enjoy.
BookSakeBlogspot More than 1 year ago
It is sometimes hard for me to pick up a novel like this one, mostly because I have read so many Holocaust period books, and I fear that I will be disappointed if a writer doesn't live up to my impossibly high standards. The Things We Cherished went above and beyond those expectations, and I read it cover to cover in one day. Centering the historical aspects on the anniversary clock allowed the reader to see the full sentimental value that it held for all the lives it touched after its creation. It made the alternating chapters from the present day so much more meaningful, and still gave me the opportunity to try and figure out how it was going to come together in the end. The story of the lawyers was also well written, and purposeful. The romance was realistic and painful; the characters had their own history that was influencing their current case, making the story one that I couldn't put down until I read the very end. I appreciated the fact that Charlotte's character was Jewish, the daughter of a holocaust survivor, and didn't automatically assume the client was guilty; in fact she was more determined to prove his innocence. There are some great parallels in the story between the present day attorney's and the historical family which were subtle and well written. I really can't say much more about this novel without any spoilers, so I will just say: READ THIS BOOK. That's all. Reviewed by Gabi for Book Sake.
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
In 2009, Charlotte Gold is a public defender who stands beneath the slightly-pompous eyes of William Penn in Philadelphia, where she works day in and day out helping the children of the streets who deserve a fair trial and a better break. Now Charlotte wasn't on the road to this career at the beginning of her legal life. In fact, this brilliant woman was headed to the other side of the lawyerly 'fence' spending her time investigating war crimes, and was offered a place at The Hague to continue her efforts. But, fate intervened, and Charlotte fell in love with Brian Warrington along the way. Let's just say that morals and truth-telling were not exactly Brian's forte (not a big shock, considering he was a lawyer). One morning, after Charlotte has been killing herself to help one of her young clients who has gotten himself into another mess, Charlotte goes back to her small office, opens the door, and sitting there, after ten years, is the ex-fiancé who broke her heart. Brian has gotten a little pudgy around the middle, and the bags under his eyes, as well as the wrinkles on his brow spell desperation, not the 'enjoyment of life.' He married the woman he dumped Charlotte for and is looking a bit terrified at the next chapter about to unfold; but, what he still wants is that partnership, and the only way he can achieve it is by defending a man by the name of Roger Dykmans. This is a client who is going to pay for back-stabbing his brother and causing Hans Dykmans, who was a man like Schindler that helped many Jewish people during WWII to escape, to be hung. Brian needs Charlotte's help because of her background and knowledge of the Holocaust, as well as her gift of getting clients to trust her. Although Charlotte doesn't quite know why she doesn't slam the door in his face, she ends up going to Munich for one week to, perhaps, revisit her past and see what she can do. The journey of this particular clock is unbelievably stunning. From Bavaria to Berlin in 1922, to Breslau in the 1940's - this clock holds special meaning and unknown secrets as it passes through the hands of many who have their own unique story to tell. As Pam Jenoff does consistently well, the past and the present weave together to offer a look at everything from bigotry, denial, forgiveness, love, pain, war, and.sacrifice. The romance is stunning. The characters are perfectly drawn, as if the reader is sitting in these locations listening to the sound of the sirens, and watching people give everything up in order to save the ones they love. The beauty of Pam Jenoff's pages is indescribable on this one. This is an immaculately told passage through time, where a relic teaches us all that nothing should ever be left unsaid, and that everyone needs to find the courage to stand up for what they believe in and declare what they feel before it's too late. Quill Says: Breathtaking! There should never be a time when Jenoff's name is not in the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list.unless, of course, she takes a month or two off.
Anonymous 15 days ago
The author did super research to complete this story. It is believable and has a good plot.Great read.
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skrishna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have read a few books by Pam Jenoff and I have always been blown away by her beautiful, thoughtful writing style. That was no exception with The Things We Cherished - her writing gives the book an anchor and really underlines the high stakes that Charlotte is facing. Additionally, it highlights the importance and the tragedy of the Holocaust while softening its blow. It makes the book compulsively readable and ensures that the weighty subject matter of the book never drags the reader down.Jenoff has created some great characters in The Things We Cherished. Charlotte is very sympathetic; she is conflicted by Brian¿s reappearance and enraged that he takes her for granted, yet she can¿t stay away from the case. Both Brian and his brother are a little flat, but Charlotte is fully realized. The magic of the book, though, is in its historical characters. The reader only sees some of them for a few pages, yet Jenoff really breathes life into them and makes them three dimensional and very relevant for the reader.The mystery behind the war crimes was a bit of a let down and I¿m not sure I could really sympathize with it, but moral ambiguity is an important part of the book. However, I could understand the overall sadness and uncertainty of the World War II time period, and thought Jenoff did an exceptional job evoking that time in history, especially with the uncertainty for Jews. The Things We Cherished deals with a very important subject matter in a manner perfect for those who choose to shy away from more difficult, depressing reads. While there is a sadness that permeates the book, it is not a gloomy read.Overall, I enjoyed The Things We Cherished and am hopeful that this might be the start to a series. I would love to read more about Charlotte¿s pursual of Nazi war criminals, while also finding justice for those falsely accused. While I¿m not sure that this will happen, given the ending of the book, either way, I look forward to seeing what Pam Jenoff does next.
lindseyrivers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a beautiful book! Although the end result between the hero and heroine was predictable, the seamless transitions between the time periods and the truth they reveal is pure genius. This isn't even usually a genre I enjoy but I couldn't put it down. I enjoyed how it wasn't your typical Holocaust story, but delved more into the relationship between the Jews and their non-Jewish Polish neighbors, something that isn't often touched. I hope this one is made into a movie. I'll be first in line.
SamSattler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Things We Cherished is an interesting piece of historical fiction centering on a war crime committed during World War II, a crime that cost the life of the alleged war criminal¿s brother, as well as the lives of several hundred Jewish children he was on the brink of saving. Now, more than six decades later, Roger Dykmans, the man accused of betraying his own brother, is refusing to defend himself against the accusations of those who believe he should be imprisoned for the remainder of his life.Charlotte Gold, a Philadelphia public defender, is startled one morning to find her longtime ex-lover waiting for her inside her drab office. Despite being a bit dismayed by both her physical and her emotional reactions to the man, Charlotte finds herself agreeing to help Brian build a defense for Roger Dykmans. However, upon her arrival in Germany to work on the case, Charlotte finds that she will be spending much more time working with Brian¿s estranged brother, Jack, than she will be spending with Brian. As Charlotte and Jack begin the research that will see them searching the old man¿s childhood home for evidence that would prove him innocent, the novel settles into a series of flashbacks that conclude at the time of the crime that Roger Dykmans is accused of having committed. At the heart of the story is an antique anniversary clock that changes hands every decade or two, until it rests, finally, with the Dykmans family. In separate flashbacks, we witness the clock being constructed by a simple farmer who learned the trade from his father, and follow it as it passes from one loving couple to the next for most of the next century. Ultimately, the clock will determine the fate of Roger Dykmans. The Things We Cherished, as plotted by Pam Jenoff, works; it has a story to tell, and it gets the job done. I do, however, think it would have worked even better if less attention, and fewer pages, had been given to the budding romance between Charlotte and Jack. While it is true that the modern romance uncannily mimics the World War II romance experienced by Roger Dykmans, it does little to advance the story other than to emotionally bond Charlotte to the old man. The Things We Cherished would have been a much stronger book if it had been constructed as an historical fiction novel with elements of romance thrown into the mix. As it is, it reads more like a romance novel with some historical fiction thrown in for good measure.Rated at: 3.0
CatieN on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a story about a handmade, heirloom clock, the plight of Jews in Europe during the 1800s and 1900s, and also parallel stories of two women who fall in love with two different men who happen to be brothers. Charlotte Gold is asked by her ex-boyfriend to defend a wealthy man charged with a Nazi war crime. His brother Jack also happens to be involved in defending the man, Roger Dykmans. Roger won't tell Charlotte and Jack his side of the story, so the two lawyers begin an investigation to find out the truth of what happened over 60 years earlier. In my opinion, the premise for this book was just too ambitious. It would have been nice if it were about 200 pages longer, adding more "meat" to all of the different stories going on in the book. I could see the potential here for a great book, but that potential fizzled out fairly quickly. The mystery was wrapped up neatly and a bit too conveniently at the end. Ditto the love story. Recommended for a fast, light read but not if you're looking for a book to lose yourself in.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books that I could register many complaints about, and yet I still enjoyed reading it.Philadelphia public defender Charlotte Gold takes leave from her job helping juveniles to take on the defense of Roger Dykmans, an octogenarian in Germany charged as a war criminal for collaborating with the Nazis. His alleged betrayal resulted in the death of his brother Hans as well as the many Jews Hans was trying to save. Charlotte is talked into the venture by her ex-boyfriend Brian, not realizing that, in Germany, she will be working with Brian¿s estranged brother Jack.As the story weaves back and forth in time, we learn what really happened with Roger and Hans, as we also watch the growing attraction between Charlotte and Jack. And tying together the two strands is the story of an old anniversary clock, passed down through the generations, and holding the key to critical events in the lives of the protagonists.Discussion: I liked this book and sped right through it. But it¿s not as polished as I hoped. The parallel love stories that take place in the past and the present, and the heirloom that passes along through the generations and draws the characters together are both overused plot devices. And neither one is developed in a way innovative enough to justify yet another rendition. A lot of the background information given on the Holocaust is delivered didactically, and should have been more smoothly integrated into the story. Some of the characters are improbably or irritatingly clueless in matters of the heart. Brian and Jack, both supposedly top-flight lawyers, often seem like amateurs, especially with respect to dealing with witnesses and evidence.Last but not least, the outcome was as predictable as could be.So why did I like it? Even a hackneyed plot is enough for me for a story that (a) deals with the moral complexities of war crimes; (b) features legal procedural elements; (c) includes a romance; and (d) has some nuance in at least some of the characters. But more than that: war adds poignancy and drama to stories; it provides swelling background music. It lends life or death urgency to the most mundane activities. The farther we are from the actual impact of fighting and death, the more we find war to be romantic. And even if it is close to us, we know that no other experience in life can match it for intensity. Thus the most hackneyed ideas can be immeasurably enhanced, and we may even superimpose our own knowledge of the setting to reinforce that which is provided by the author.Do I recommend this book? Yes. I would actually compare it in a way with ¿The Postmistress.¿ I had a lot of complaints about that book as well, but it had similar elements that induced me to like it in any event. And if you don¿t know a lot about what it was like to live in Germany during WWII, this story is very helpful in that regard.
jjameli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just finished this and sadly I feel underwhelmed. I'm a fan of Pam Jenoff's books so I was expecting a lot more from The Things We Cherished, but it just never got interesting to me. There were times when I felt it was getting momentum but then it would fizzle.
lisa1121mass on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book through Early Reviewers. ~ When I read the blurb on this book, I mistakenly thought this was going to be another depressing World War 2 story, not so! I really enjoyed this story. ~ ~ Without giving too much away, the story goes back and forth present day to the 1940's. This book is packed with family secrets and a intreging story line. I raced through this book to find out the ending. Highly recommend!
Bookish59 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While helping to defend Roger Dykmans, for the possible betrayal of his brother Hans during WWII, resulting in the murder of Hans and the Jewish children he tried to save, Charlotte Gold, currently a Philadelphia defense lawyer, finds herself in an emotional quandary. Jack Warrington is the first lawyer on the case. Charlotte had dated and loved Brian, Jack's younger brother, who left her for Danielle, now his wife. Their investigation turns up information about Hans' Jewish wife, Magda, providing a key reason Roger will not defend himself. Because Charlotte cares about people, she is motivated to connect the dots of Hans', Roger's and Magda's lives during such dreadful, dangerous times to learn the truth. A major theme running throughout the novel is brothers. A man who saves his brother's life, another who hurts his brother profoundly, and brothers who simply are very different and don't get along. I understand that Jenoff was trying to show various fraternal relationships throughout time. But the squabbling, competitiveness, and argumentativeness between Brian and Jack is distracting, and only acts to detract from the flow and importance of the main story. Also, the timing of the call Jack receives which puts the last puzzle piece in place, conveniently solving the "mystery" is tired and contrived. It should have come a year or years later. I think this novel has much unrealized potential.
nu-bibliophile on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pam Jenoff wrote a very moving and pulling novel. It was written very well. There were two major categories: the past and the present. I loved the way she pieced together the story like a puzzle. She either wrote about the historical element of the novel which included the story of the clockmaker, the history of the family heirloom, the story of the forbidden love between the characters during the war, or wrote about the present element which included the story of three people with their own stories that has nothing to do with the past element but two key people who is involved both in the past and present element of the book. She constructed the story beautifully as she weaved all the characters stories into one. I have seen many other writers use this technique in their writing, but Pam Jenoff did it diligently. She pulled me in and kept me interested. Unfortunately, I regret to mention that the story between Charlotte and Jack was unsatisfactory. It was never formulated and the ending was hurried and abrupt. Overall, for the most part, the novel was written splendidly.
SPutman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a well-written book and a fast read with a captivating story. In one present-day storyline, two brothers and a woman are caught up in a love triangle while defending an elderly man of World War II-era war crimes. In another storyline set in Nazi Germany, two brothers and a woman are also caught up in a love triangle. And in several other storylines, the reader peeks into various lives that were connected to an anniversary clock, which is also connected to the two love triangles. It sounds complicated, but the author pulls it off nicely, resulting in an interesting story. The only problem is that it is hard to identify with the people in the present-day love story because their story seems trite and their separation pointless when compared to the story that takes place during the horrors of World War II. Nonetheless, it is an interesting story that those who enjoy World War II fiction will surely enjoy.
bookczuk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What if you are forced with the choice of making the worst possible choice for the best possible reason? The Things We Cherished is a novel which explores this dilemma through interweaving tales. The central story revolves around the defense of Roger Dykmans, a wealthy Polish financier, and brother of a resistance hero, who has been charged with war crimes. Though Roger refuses to help in his own defense, Charley and Jack Warrington begin to delve into his past to unravel the mystery. In doing so, they also unravel their own past, for Jack is the estranged brother of Charley's ex-fiance. As the modern day story begins to heat up, the back story starting in Poland in the early 1900's also expands. The action, past and present, travels thorough Germany, Poland and Italy, as the quest to find the reasons behind Roger's actions unfold. The book held my interest, because of the backstories mostly, despite a few complaints I might have about character development.On a personal level there were a couple of interesting tidbits in this novel. One is that my husband and I were given an Anniversary Clock much like the one Johann created, as a wedding gift. I was fascinated to learn more about the history of these clocks, and even more determined to get ours working again. It went on the fritz a few years ago after 25 years of marriage, though the marriage is still going strong.The other bit that was incredibly fascinating to me is that I became quite familiar with the area of Berlin that features in several of the back-story spots. The New synagog and the Jewish Quarter of Mitte -- even one of the spots in the story, in a Berlin segment, during WWII, has been turned into a hotel. It is this hotel that we stayed in, on Rosenthaler Platz, when we visited Berlin last spring. The story of the family who'd had a shop and home there before and during the war was documented in the hotel. I could picture Rosenthaler Strasse in my mind when reading that section of the book.
Shuffy2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Charlotte's ex shows up out of the blue after almost a decade and asks her to drop everything, fly to Poland and help him with an important court case. Should she help the man, who broke her heart, defend an alleged WWII war criminal? Charlotte is surprised when Brian shows up in her Philadelphia office asking for her help in defending Roger Dykmans, the brother of a Holocaust hero. Did Roger turn his brother into the Nazis during the war? Why is an antique clock so important? And why did Brian ask his brother Jack, who is also a laywer, to help out on the case when the two do not get along? As a history lover, the book's settings and characters were intriguing. The book jumps throughout the past 100 years almost seemlessly- before the war, during WWII and after- leaving you to wonder how it is all going to come together; couldn't put it down until I reached the very end! I highly recommend to historical-fiction fans!
LauraS. on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Pam Jenoff takes the reader on a journey that illuminates all of the joys and fears of the past. This novel brings to light man's ability to sacrifice everything in the face of love. Through many twists and turns, Jenoff's writing attaches the reader to the characters, allowing them to experience everything the characters experience. This novel is meant to transport you to those far away countries, and entice you to experience those places through the eyes of those of the past. It is a great novel that takes you out of your home and plants you in a world of deceit and treachery. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a sweet tooth for historical fiction, you'll be sure to love it.
ladytaluka on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a pretty good book. I won an advanced reader's edition, so there were some typos and errors, but it wasn't that bad. I liked how the chapters would switch time periods and you had to figure out how all the different characters pieced together. I didn't feel like the wrap up at the end was that great though. It seemed pretty abrupt. Although this book dealt with the Holocaust, I didn't feel like I learned a whole lot.
lawral on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When Charlotte's ex, Brian, shows up in her office asking for help on a case, she wants to say no. She really does. Instead she finds herself in Germany working on Brian's case with Brian's brother Jack (Brian himself being unable to make it). Their client, Roger Dykmans, is accused of WWII-era war crimes, and though he refuses to cooperate with his own defense team, he insists that he is innocent. As Charlotte and Jack investigate Roger's past, they end up getting to know each other, and Charlotte begins to see Jack in ways she never expected to see an ex's sibling.Chapters alternate between Roger's life in the 1930s and earlier and Charlotte and Jack in present day, with flashes of a turn of the century clockmaker mixed in. Jenoff really managed to create atmosphere in the past stories in a way that was lacking the the present day storyline. On the other hand, the past stories weren't nearly as fleshed out as that of Charlotte and Jack. The romance in each of the storylines was convincing, complicated, and (mostly) tragic, but they all lined up a little too nicely for my taste. Once something happened in Roger's life it was easy to see how it would be replicated in Charlotte and Jack's interactions. But while the plots of the past and present stories were connected, 1930s Roger seemed to have very little to do with 2000s Roger. In the present day he is just a reason for Charlotte and Jack to flit about Europe and do some digging; he never really became a character. I get it; his life was SUPER tragic and he deserves to spend his old age locked in a shell. Still. And (not to get to spoilery) Jenoff takes an easy out of the one situation that could make past-Roger and present-Roger collide.Even so, this was a pretty enjoyable read. I just wish that when it came time for an ending, Charlotte and Jack weren't Jenoff's only concerns.Book source: ARC provided by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program
elleayess on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book even though it does contain that air of mystery to it. I am not particularly fond of mysteries (too many Nancy Drew in my youth, I guess), but this mystery actually kept me reading the book as I really wanted to know what secret the clock contained and what happened to Roger's lover. There is a two-fold story to the book: one story is set back in war-time 40's Europe, the other in the modern day. Seeing that I completely appreciate war time novels, I actually enjoyed the 1940's story line much more. The book does have elements of romance to it, however. I am certainly not a fan of romance novels (except Sparks') and was quite pleased to find that this book did not contain the x-rated version found so commonly in books today. People just don't have imagination anymore. The love story set back in the 40's was very appreciable as romance like that doesn't exist in this day and age, hence my aversion of modern day romance which I could have done without in the book. Give it a try if you are into historical novels set in war time Europe, but tread lightly if you are completely aversive to romances!
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story line sounded so interesting, I kept thinking this book should be better than it was. Told in alternating chapters, between the past and present but the tension was missing and the romance between the two main characters just didn't sizzle, for what was supposed to be a great love.