Title: The Things We Cherished
Author: Pam Jenoff
Release Date: July 12, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Charlotte is satisfied with her work as a public defender in Philadelphia when her ex-boyfriend, Brian, shows up in her office to ask for a favor. His client has been accused of Nazi complicity during World War II – specifically, selling out his brother, a war hero credited with saving thousands of Jews – and Brian’s client will not speak out in his own defense. Intrigued, Charlotte takes on the case and tries to uncover the secret that has been hidden all these years.
I have read a few books by Pam Jenoff and I have always been blown away by her beautiful, thoughtful writing style. That was no exception with The Things We Cherished – her writing gives the book an anchor and really underlines the high stakes that Charlotte is facing. Additionally, it highlights the importance and the tragedy of the Holocaust while softening its blow. It makes the book compulsively readable and ensures that the weighty subject matter of the book never drags the reader down.
Jenoff has created some great characters in The Things We Cherished. Charlotte is very sympathetic; she is conflicted by Brian’s reappearance and enraged that he takes her for granted, yet she can’t stay away from the case. Both Brian and his brother are a little flat, but Charlotte is fully realized. The magic of the book, though, is in its historical characters. The reader only sees some of them for a few pages, yet Jenoff really breathes life into them and makes them three dimensional and very relevant for the reader.
The mystery behind the war crimes was a bit of a let down and I’m not sure I could really sympathize with it, but moral ambiguity is an important part of the book. However, I could understand the overall sadness and uncertainty of the World War II time period, and thought Jenoff did an exceptional job evoking that time in history, especially with the uncertainty for Jews. The Things We Cherished deals with a very important subject matter in a manner perfect for those who choose to shy away from more difficult, depressing reads. While there is a sadness that permeates the book, it is not a gloomy read.
Overall, I enjoyed The Things We Cherished and am hopeful that this might be the start to a series. I would love to read more about Charlotte’s pursual of Nazi war criminals, while also finding justice for those falsely accused. While I’m not sure that this will happen, given the ending of the book, either way, I look forward to seeing what Pam Jenoff does next.