The Things We Cherished: A Novel
by Pam Jenoff
Hardcover- N/A

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 ...

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  "The Things We Cherished, Pam Jenoff" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 04/01/13

The story really begins in Bavaria, with the seemingly innocent introduction of a handmade clock, in 1903. It is an Anniversary Clock, a unique clock that is wound only once a year, that has been built by a farmer who hopes to sell it for enough money to pay for passage to America for himself and his pregnant wife.
The book then fast forwards to 2009 where we meet Charlotte, a lawyer from a modest background, daughter of a Holocaust survivor. Once very much in love, she was jilted by her boyfriend. Brian decided to get engaged to a woman who was from the same social class and more compatible to him. Instead of working as planned, with him at The Hague, she changes course and becomes a Public Defender in Philadelphia.
After several years pass, Brian reappears suddenly and asks for her help. He is representing Roger Dykmans against the charge of being a Nazi collaborator responsible for sending many innocents to their deaths, including his own brother. If Brian is successful in getting him an acquittal, he is virtually guaranteed to make partner in his firm.
Charlotte spent three years studying the Holocaust in Eastern Europe and is a great forensic investigator. Her mother is now dead, and all of her other close relatives died in Europe at the hands of the Nazis, so she is very much interested in the case. Although she is still smarting from the pain of her broken engagement, she consents to give Brian a week’s time, if he will help one of her clients in return. Brian believes that Charlotte will be able to discover evidence with her forensic skills and will provide a plausible defense for his client. He believes he has missed something in his own investigation, and so he agrees to her terms.
Charlotte sets off for Germany, only to be stood up at the airport by Brian, who said he was unavoidably delayed, and so she is forced to travel alone. Once in Germany, she is shocked to find that it is Brian’s brother with whom she will be working in this investigation, even though the brothers are still very much estranged. Together, they travel to Poland and investigate the war years in order to try and prove Dykmans’ innocence. Dykmans, himself, is unwilling to help in the investigation to clear his name.
Charlotte is often put off by Mike’s coldness and distance and an uneasy, seesaw working relationship develops. She wonders if he dislikes her and why. As their friendship grows, the development of a romance in the story feels a little bit contrived, at first, but for the most part, it comes together, in the end.
As they investigate Dykmans’ past, they learn of a great secret love in his life. Between the two of them they discover many subtle subplots that intertwine, sometimes not very clearly, but they all do eventually connect and work their way into the plot and the mystery’s solution. The novel serves to explain how hard it was to survive during the war and how hard it was to help each other, even with the best of intentions, and yet, love somehow survived and thrived, lasting decades, even in the absence of hope and the loss of the loved one. It was a time when no one could be trusted and evidence was easily lost or destroyed. Happy or unhappy coincidences often meant the difference between life and death. What is it that holds the key to the puzzle of Roger’s guilt or innocence and will it be discovered in time? To find out, you must travel with Charlotte and Roger on their journey to discover the truth.

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