Today is the big book review day! My partner in crime, aka my bestest best friend Lindsey J. and I have read a book that you all chose, and we are here to provide you with an awesome book review just for you!
The Things We Cherished, written by Pam Jenoff. Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and Cambridge University in England.
After pursuing her master’s in history from Cambridge, she was then appointed as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The appointment afforded her the chance to participate in the most senior levels of government operations.
In 1996, Pam was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. This position provided Pam an opportunity to develop her expertise in the events of the Holocaust and Polish-Jewish history. She was trusted with the preservation of Auschwitz and the restitution of Jewish property in Poland.
The summary of The Things We Cherished:
Set right in the center of the Holocaust, The Things We Cherished, is story about love, betrayal and the intricacy of relationships. Charlotte Gold is shocked to find former finance, Brian Harrington, sitting in her law office, needing her expertise for a difficult case. Reluctantly, Charlotte travels to Munich to help Brian’s bother Jack prove their client, Roger Dykmans innocence. Roger is being accused of World War II war crimes, to include betraying his brother Hans, a Holocaust hero. As Jack and Charlotte dive into their client’s history, they discover the exceedingly difficult choices Roger faced throughout his relationship with Magda, his brother’s wife.
Interesting right? Worth reading? Let our book review tell you!
Lindsey found this questionnaire written by the author to help us pose some thought engaging questions.
The book review questionnaire is a series of fourteen questions and answers!
We alternated answering the questions so that you would have two unique perspectives of the book. I hope you enjoy our book review of The Things We Cherished.
- Why do you think Charlotte agreed to help Brian and take on the case? Do you agree with her decision?
I believe that Charlotte’s decision to help Brian has everything to do with the core of her character, she naturally wants to help, however she can, even in times where it may cost her a great deal. The allure of Europe obviously played a factor, her family history and possibly the remembrance of an easier time in her life, before Brian, surely influenced her decision to go aboard.
I am more of a prideful kind of gal myself, I would have had more qualms about helping Brian, I also would have demanded much more for myself than Charlotte. I was actually annoyed that she accepted Brian’s request so easily, and not realized that she, herself, was the upper hand in the arrangement.
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 likable despite these choices?
Oh Roger. I thought about this a lot while I was reading. Social experiments have proven time and time again that while people while say that it’s not worth saving 2 people when hundreds others could be saved instead, but when those 2 people are important to you, it’s an entirely different story. If I put myself in his shoes, I don’t know if I could have made any other decision. How do you send your child and the love of your life off to an ugly, uncertain fate when there is any other option? At the same time, how do you knowingly risk the life of your brother and hundreds of children who are already living a nightmare?
3. What do you think drew Roger and Magda together so powerfully? How did their dynamic change throughout the book?
I suspect Magda’s lack of championship and loneliness drew her to Roger. Roger was a young man, that had just left his childhood home, for schooling, he was enamored by the first young, attractive woman to be kind to him. The hours spent in the parlor, speaking and understanding each other gave them a solid fountain to build a relationship on. Isn’t that what we all want to marry, or be with, our very best friend? One who understands how we tick inside and out? I think their relationship grew with intensity, as they both had a secret to keep from Hans. Both, Magda and Roger had to lean on each other for support as the lies between them grew and grew. I suspect as the weight of their relationship took a heavy toll on Magda, and that may have been why she lashed out at Roger, a time or two.
4. What do you think Magda really wanted?
I think what Magda really wanted was to be the focus of someone’s life and wanted to feel safe. She had the uncertainty of being classified as Jewish at a very dangerous time, and had the added uncertainty caused by her husband’s work. She had to have been constantly worried about being taken away by the Nazis, and with her husband always gone, there was no one for her to lean on, to be her security in an insane time. When Hans came and was there in the quiet, lonely evening hours and was so attentive and responsive to her, it’s natural that she would develop a fondness for him, at least on some level.
5. What role does the clock play throughout the book? Are there commonalities in the way it touches people’s lives? Differences?
The clock, for me at least, seemed to be in symbol of love and usually when the clock came into play, someone was leaving.
The clock was leaving Johann’s ownership while Rebecca was dying, the clock was used as a tool to get Jake out of town, and again the clock was bartered off to get Anneke out of Germany.
The clock was also cherished so deeply by Sol and Jake’s mother, that she made sure she was the only person to ever care for it, much like the clock’s twin that remained in Johanna’s ownership, all of those years later.
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?
Part of what makes the brother’s relationships so tense is the fact that one brother “gets” the girl, while the other is the one who’s truly in love with her. In Brian and Jack’s case, Brian dated Charlotte for a long time while Jack pined for her. Roger was married to Magda, but Hans seems to have been her soul mate. In both cases, there’s a deep connection between the brothers and a woman, and in both cases, the brother who was not in the relationship seemed to value the woman more. Jack resented Brian for treating Charlotte so disgracefully; Roger was so obsessed with his work that he never realized what was going on in his own home, or that his daughter bore such a strong resemblance to his brother.
As we progress through the novel, it’s easy to see that the brothers still have that underlying sense of responsibility borne of being brothers, but they also can’t help but follow where their hearts lead.
7. Charlotte initially dislikes Jack. When does she begin to feel differently about him? What conflicts develop between them, and are there things that can be overcome? Is the fact that they’re both attorneys an advantage or a detriment to their romantic relationship?
After the vodka. Seriously, after drinking at dinner, and kissing Jack that same night, she starts to question herself, at first just one or two things she dismisses casually, soon she starts wondering about more about him, and questioning the intention of his ‘moves’ whether they be work related or directed specifically at her. We all know when a guy starts plaguing all of the thoughts in out mind, we like him.
The major conflict is Jack’s brother Brian, who happens to be the former finance that crushed Charlotte’s heart. Considering that Jack was barely engaging with his family before Charlotte, I don’t think it that unreasonable for him to keep his distance with Brian in the future, thus practically eliminating the conflict.
I think both parties in the relationship being attorneys is both an advantage and a detriment. The time demands of an attorney could put a strain on their relationship, but each of them knowing exactly how demanding their jobs can equally be might provide for a level of mutual understanding. I also think it beneficial that each party could seek the advice of another practicing lawyer on a particularly difficult case, free of charge of course.
8. How do you think Charlotte’s personal and professional lives influenced one another at the beginning of the book? Did that change?
At the beginning of the book, Charlotte’s professional life ran the show. She based her initial offer to work on the case around when she could take vacation from work, she asked for a favor for a client rather than anything for herself as the condition to go to Europe with Brian, every decision derived from a ‘work-first’ mentality. I think she was too afraid of her personal life, so she focused on work and occasionally gave in to her desire for a relationship. Towards the end of the book, she was allowed them to be much more intertwined. Seeing Brian unexpectedly, and then spending so much time with Jack, really forced her to consider all of the what-if’s and let her personal life have some importance on her day to day living.
9. With whom in the book does Charlotte most closely identify/relate? Why?
This is a tough one. I think that Charlotte most closely relates to Magda. Charlotte is caught in this love triangle with these two brothers, much like Magda. Charlotte still has feelings she can’t quite get past with Brian, Brian doesn’t love her, and Jack is and has been head over heels with Charlotte. Magda is in a relationship with Hans that she can’t get out of, Roger is in love with Magda, and so is Hans, but Magda loves Roger. Both of these ladies find themselves in the middle of love triangles, with brothers.
10. Were you surprised at the way in which Johann, the farmer, went on to live his life after Rebecca died? How so?
I would say it was not surprising how Johann carried on with his life after Rebecca died. Profound grief can cause people to act in lots of different ways. I don’t think it’s surprising that he walked away from the home they had shared. They lived in a pretty rural area, and there were so many memories in their home. Johann was devastated by the loss, so he took the one thing of value he had and left. I think by working in the clock shop he was able to reminisce about his previous life.
11. Which character in the book was most tested by circumstance? Which was the most transformed?
I would probably have to name Roger as the most tested, with the affair and the relationship he maintained with Magda. Also in his efforts trying to get Magda and Anna back.
Roger was the most changed for sure, from the innocence of a child just finishing school, to an adulterous man, who fathered an illegitimate child with his brother’s wife, and lost the great love of his life.
12. Did you think the events in the characters’ lives were driven by fate? Chance?
I don’t think that all of these things connecting the characters are simply by chance, one or two coincidences, maybe. Not the same clock with different owners throughout the years, too many moving pieces to be left to 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?
I could see why Sol would have those thoughts. To him, leaving Berlin would have been going out to the ‘great unknown,’ Jake wouldn’t know were he was going to get his next meal, while Sol would have had the comfort of his own home, and life style.
When in hind sight, Jake, being Jewish and getting out of Berlin was probably the best thing that could have happened to him.
14. Where do you think Charlotte winds up one month after the end of the book? One year? Five years?
(Questions courtesy of the author.)
I would guess that in one month Charlotte is still in Philadelphia. Just as a matter of practicality, there would be a lot of things to take care of before she could run off to work with Jack in Europe. I have no doubt that she went. The appeal of both Europe and this man she had such a strong connection with would be too much to turn down. In one year, I would guess that she was still with Jack, engaged or close to it. They have this long history, and now that Charlotte knows just how Jack truly feels, I think their relationship would move very quickly. After five years, (at the risk of being cliche) I would say Charlotte and Jack are living happily ever after with one baby, which they would have given a special name to honor someone from their shared past – maybe one of the people involved in Roger’s case.
There you have it folks one book review, by two different book lovers! The Things We Cherished is a must read, for those readers that love historically infused fiction. Especially those of you that love a little romantic flair in your novels!
Thank you so much for reading our book review! Be sure to let us know what you think of the book The Things We Cherished!