Charlotte Gold meets Brian Warrington in law school while interning with the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague. They fall in love and return to New York City, where they move in together. She soon finds out that Brian is very wealthy, and she becomes comfortable in these circles.
When Charlotte visits her mother in Philadelphia, she learns her mother has lung cancer; worse, her mother has only a few months to live. Charlotte commutes back and forth from Manhattan to Philadelphia while also going to law school.
On one of her trips back to New York, she finds a strange tube of lipstick in the bathroom. Charlotte confronts Brian, and he admits that he has found someone else.
Three weeks later, Charlotte reads an engagement announcement in the paper. After graduation, Charlotte decides to leave New York and move back to Philadelphia, where she is offered a job as a public defender. Time passes.
Almost a decade later, Charlotte runs into Brian in Philadelphia. He pleads with her to help him on a pro bono case his firm wants him to take. If he can win the case, he tells her, he will make partner.
The case involves Roger Dykmans, head of an international brokerage house. He is the brother of Hans Dykmans, who had been credited with saving thousands of Jews during World War II. Roger Dykmans has been arrested and charged as a war criminal for having helped the Nazis. Recent historical papers seem to implicate Roger, charging him with selling out his brother’s secret during the war. Hans was subsequently arrested, and several hundred Jewish children who could have been saved were killed.
Brian wants Charlotte’s help because she had won a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research into the Holocaust. She had published some articles on the subject and had developed a number of contacts. Brian also thinks her expertise as a defense attorney would help his client.
Unfortunately, his client is in custody in Europe, and Charlotte has cases coming up in Philadelphia. Charlotte and Brian work out a deal and she decides to give him one week of assistance. Brian further complicates the case by explaining that Roger won’t even help in his own defense.
When Charlotte goes to Europe, Brian doesn’t go with her. She starts working on the case with Brian’s brother, Jack, while Brian is “unavoidably delayed.” Charlotte realizes she really likes Jack. She never noticed him before when they met years earlier because Brian overshadowed him. Jack and Charlotte go on a wild goose chase for an intricate clock that could hold proof that Roger is innocent.
The story takes on a mysterious quality as they try to piece together information from Poland in the 1940s. Part of the story takes place before the war, part during the war and part in the present day. But the novel offers a romance that begins in the 1940s and continues through the story. It’s all woven together masterfully.
“The Things We Cherished” has just the right amount of romance, mystery, history and legal twists. And it’s written by someone who knows her material.
After earning a master’s degree from Cambridge University, Pam Jenoff worked at the Pentagon and later in the State Department. In the latter post, she was assigned to the U.S Consulate in Krakow, Poland, where she became an expert in Polish-Jewish relations and worked for the restoration of Jewish property in Poland. Among her other novels are “The Kommandant’s Girl,” an international bestseller, and “The Diplomat’s Wife.”
Maggie Braun is a teacher at Manhattan High School.