Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Two lawyers argue, fall in love, and unravel a tragic historical mystery in Jenoff's (The Kommandant's Girl) solid latest novel of lovers and loners struggling to find happiness despite social injustice and complicating emotions. Prompted by ex-boyfriend Brian Warrington, Philadelphia public defender Charlotte Gold goes to Germany to help defend octogenarian financier Roger Dykmans, on trial for allegedly collaborating in the Nazis' capture of his heroic anti-Nazi brother, Hans. Working with Brian's own estranged brother, Jack, Charlotte discovers she and Jack share an idealistic approach to law and a mutual attraction, even as they disagree over how to handle the case, at the heart of which is the tale of two brothers in love with the same woman and a crucially important family heirloom. Jenoff interweaves generational narratives: the clockmaker with dreams of taking his wife away from pogroms to safety in America; the rising tide of anti-Semitism; Roger and Hans as young men hoping to save lives amid Nazi atrocities; and Charlotte, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, herself entangled with two brothers. Unlike much romantic historical suspense, this is quiet and credible even the surprise twists further cementing Jenoff's reputation for adeptly using the harsh realities of WWII Europe as a context for a timeless love story. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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.
Reading Group Guide
1. Why do you think Charlotte agreed to help Brian and take on the case? Do you agree with her decision?
2. Do you think the ends that Roger was seeking (saving Magda and her daughter) justified the means of his choices and actions? Did you find him likeable despite these choices?
3. What do you think drew Roger and Magda together so powerfully? How did their dynamic change throughout the book?
4. What do you think Magda really wanted?
5. What role does the clock play throughout the book? Are there commonalities in the way it touches people’s lives? Differences?
6. The relationships between the brothers in the book (Brian and Jack, Sol and Jake, Roger and Hans) are fraught with both affection and acrimony. What is it about sibling relationships that makes them so complex? Is it different when the siblings are the same sex versus the opposite?
7. Charlotte initially dislikes Jack. When does she begin to feel differently about him? What conflicts develop between them, and are they things that can be overcome? Is the fact that they’re both attorneys an advantage or a detriment to their romantic relationship?
8. How do you think Charlotte’s personal and professional lives influenced one another at the beginning of the book? Did that change?
9. With whom in the book does Charlotte most closely identify/relate? Why?
10. Were you surprised at the way in which Johann, the farmer, went on to live his life after Rebecca died? How so?
11. Which character in the book was most tested by circumstance? Which was most transformed?
12. Did you think the events in the characters’ lives were driven by fate? Chance?
13. What do you think of Sol's perception that he was the lucky one because he got to remain in Berlin after Jake was forced to flee?
14. Where do you think Charlotte winds up one month after the end of the book? One year? Five years?