The Things We Cherished
by Pam Jenoff
Page Count: 288
Release Date: July 12, 2011
How got: local public library
First attention getter: the synopsis
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.
Star Rating - 3
This is another work where I’m not 100% sure whether I liked the dual storyline or not. Individually, I liked each one to a degree. It was interesting to see the footwork behind building a legal case as well as the journey of the clock throughout history and its importance to the developing events of the early 20th century.
Yet, I felt that the historical story lost a bit when balanced against the continuous nature of the modern tale. We’re constantly exposed to Charlotte and her journey towards truth in her trial saga; the historical story is broken up into four distinct timeframes with different families. They are all connected by subtle connections and the clock, but I think the characters as people got lost since we didn’t have that long to go get to know them. Not nearly as long as Charlotte and the brothers.
I also have mixed feelings on Charlotte. I cared enough about her to be invested in her emotional journey and to see how her relationship triangle would end up. But at times I felt like she was too perfect: pretty, good at her job, dedicated to the downtrodden, and drawing men like flies. She had a slight whiff of the “Mary Sue” about her that set my teeth on edge.
Having so many historical time periods was a bit of a detract, but I do have to say that I enjoyed exploring the journey of this inanimate object and seeing how many lives it touched/impacted. Through that vehicle, the reader gets a window into the rise of the Nazi state and how it impacted these various families. We get to see the early stages of that rise: pre-WWI, the interwar years, during WWII, and the aftermath in Soviet occupied Poland. Learning the different fates both touched and saddened me.
While I enjoyed this in-depth exploration of the Nazi years through a unique vehicle, overall this book still rates as a 3 for me. The dual storylines read a bit skewed since so many historical timeframes are explored. In the modern tale, the main lead sometimes comes off as too perfect, making me hate her as much as I’m rooting for her. So a good tale but not my favorite by this author.