Title: The Things We Cherished
Author: Pam Jenoff
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the author
First line: “You know, don’t you, that you’re looking at twenty-five to life?”
Charlotte Gold is working as a public defender when her ex-boyfriend, Brian, contacts her for help on a high-profile case. Roger Dykmans, the brother of a Schindler-esque Holocaust hero, has been accused of war crimes and refuses to help in his own defense. Along with Brian’s brother, Jack, Charlotte travels to Germany to meet with Dykmans and try to find a way to clear his name. The only information he offers in his defense is to talk of the existence of an antique clock, a clock that contains information that will exonerate him. Jack and Charlotte travel from Germany to Poland to Italy in search of that evidence, while the history of the clock – and Dykmans – is slowly revealed.
I’ve read author Pam Jenoff’s contemporary thrillers (Almost Home and A Hidden Affair), both of which I enjoyed. The Things She Cherished was my first experience with her historical fiction, and she is definitely just as gifted in this genre. In fact, this book has two story lines – a contemporary plot and a historical plot – and the historical story is definitely the stronger of the two. The characters of Jack and Charlotte, and the romance between them, never seemed as real as the people and stories in the chapters set back in time.
The journey of the clock from its creator to its final destiny as the secret keeper for Roger Dykmans is a fascinating one, and the historical details and emotional authenticity that resonate through these sections are the true strengths of this book. The chapter that tells the story of the creation of the clock is an especially fine example of historical fiction. As Roger Dykmans story – and his connection to the clock – unfolds, the reader begins to understand the choices he was forced to make for family and for love.
After thoroughly enjoying The Things We Cherished, I will definitely be seeking out Pam’s two previous historical novels, The Kommandant’s Girl and The Diplomat’s Wife.