The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff
|The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff
|Category: Historical Fiction
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie
|Summary: Spanning many decades this book trace the lives of two brothers. They both love the same woman but as the second world war rages around them, things become nasty and dangerous for all concerned.
|Date: November 2011
|External links: Author's website
The rather sentimental title and Mills & Boon-ish front cover did not endear me to this book initially. The blurb on the back cover made up for this, however. The story opens - at the end, if you get my drift and we're in America in 2009. An elderly man called Roger is in prison, awaiting trial for (alleged) war crimes. Charlotte has been assigned to the case. Although she's a hot-shot lawyer she also has a conscience (unlike many of her colleagues) so therefore she's a bit of a rare breed.
Jenoff takes some time to tell us about Charlotte's romantic past. How she fell head over heels for a brash fellow lawyer. How he was a cad and cheated on her. She's now single and sort of likes it like that, for now. Well, at least there will be no distractions and she can fully concentrate on this tricky and complex case. No distractions? Think again, Charlotte.
Roger Dykmans has been living in America for many years and has been successful in his chosen field. Unmarried and childless - but as we delve into his murky past we see why he is a man who has chosen to live for many years on his own.
As Charlotte pours over the copious case notes she sees it's going to be tough to defend him. But she's good at her job and will not simply cave in at the first legal hurdle, of which there are many. The notes make for grim reading involving Jewish children and their ultimate fate during the Holocaust.
The story dips back and forth between the present day and to the years of the second world war as we follow the lives of the two brothers. We delve even further back in time to pin-point a particular item which will have relevance throughout the Dykmans' brothers lives. In fact this item is an extremely important one that would probably be labelled 'exhibit A' in court. The legal outcome you could say, hinges on it.
I loved Jenoff's style. It's not at all sentimental or gushy and whereas there is a powerful and rather poignant love story at its core, there is also a strong legal/investigative element which I welcomed and which gave the book quite a bit of depth. The characters are also very good. The elderly Roger is indeed enigmatic and nicely mysterious at the beginning which draws in the reader beautifully. It did me. And I learned more and more about his past life I came to like him, even admire him a little. And Charlotte? Well, she's like a breath of fresh air. Totally believable. As the story progressed I was enjoying this book more and more.
Jenoff takes us as far back in time as 1903, Bavaria in order to source an intriguing piece of the jig-saw. She has a natural and fluid voice. We also see the go-getting and persistent Charlotte hopping on and off planes and visiting various countries in order to get answers to her questions. What a terrific story.
Jenoff has cleverly chosen a theme where many readers (myself included) will have no difficulty in conjuring up mental images. In reality, we have seen elderly, frail men ordered to attend court regarding war crimes. This work of fiction takes this scenario to another level, creating romance yes, but also a rather powerful story. I was enthralled right from the first page. Thoroughly recommended.
If this book appeals then you might like to try The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff at Amazon.com.
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