Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 12, 2011 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Genre: historical fiction, legal thriller, romance novel, mystery, women's fiction, WWII, Jewish Holocaust, book club pick
Rating: 5 stars
Charlotte Gold is a public defender and daughter of a Holocaust survivor. She used to be an associate attorney for a big New York firm, but after the devastating loss of her gravely ill mother and an heart-wrenching breakup with her long time boyfriend, Charlotte has rebuilt her life in Philadelphia, where she tirelessly devotes herself to juvenile court cases. When her ex, a high-profile attorney himself, shows up at her office door ten years later, Charlotte’s never extinguished hopes to reconnect with her former lover are revived but immediately crushed. What she expects to be an attempt at reconciliation turns out to be a business proposal of legal nature. Brian Warrington, in fact, has been tasked to defend a wealthy Polish financier and brother of a Holocaust hero from the accusation of war crimes. Roger Dykmans faces trial for the alleged betrayal of his brother Hans and consequent death of hundreds of Jewish children during World War II. After trying in vain to get his defendant to cooperate and exasperated by his stubborn and inexplicable silence, Brian thinks that Charlotte, with her forensic expertise and knowledge of the Holocaust history, may be the right lawyer to get Roger Dykmans to talk and get him out of jail. Motivated by lingering feelings for her ex fiance and moved by an undeniable desire to work again on a high-profile case, Charlotte accepts the proposal and flies to Europe right away. To her great disappointment though, Brian is not there to welcome her in his Munich branch office, and he won’t be part of the legal team either: to greet her and work by her side, Jack Warrington, Brain’s brother.
Apparently, the key to unravel the mystery that may prove Roger’s claimed innocence is contained in an anniversary clock from the early 1900s, a handcrafted and valuable timepiece mysteriously linked to his family history. Unfortunately this is all the wealthy industrialist is willing to say in his defense. Through forensic researches that will lead Charlotte and Jack across Europe to delve into Dykmans’ past and unveil long-buried truths, a very special bond will form between the two attorneys.
Spanning between present day Philadelphia and WWII-era Germany, award winning author Pam Jenoff weaves a riveting and suspenseful tale of love and betrayal against the backdrop of one of the darkest hour of our modern history. The Things We Cherished is a brilliantly plotted, wonderfully executed and cleverly concocted combination of legal thriller, historical fiction and romance. I would whole-heartedly recommend it not only to readers fond of wartime and Holocaust themed novels, but also to anyone who is looking for a high-quality read. A perfect book-club pick.