Book Talk: Lawyer says profession helps her write novels

Thu Oct 13, 2011 5:03am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - A diplomat and lawyer before fulfilling a long-held dream of writing novels, Pam Jenoff says that being a lawyer has helped her write better fiction -- even though none of her books, up to now, has set foot in a courtroom.

But her latest, "The Things We Cherished," combines a look at Jewish history up to and during World War Two with the trial of an elderly man accused of war crimes who maintains that proof of his innocence is in an elaborate clock last seen in Nazi Germany.

The mother of three children under three, Jenoff also teaches law and says that while she once wrote from five to seven in the mornings before going to work, she now has trained herself to use every bit of free time she gets, writing in short bursts whenever she can

She spoke with Reuters about how law and her experiences in Poland as a diplomat informed her writing.

Q: What got you started on this book?

A: "The idea for the book itself came for a clock that my husband gave me for our first wedding anniversary, known as an 'anniversary clock.' It's called that because it only needs to be wound once a year. It's a beautiful antique clock, and as I looked at it, I started imagining where the clock had been and the history of the clock, and a fictitious history emerged for me -- the clock's about a hundred years old. So I envisioned it in different places through time throughout the 20th century, and it became a metaphor for the Jewish experience in 20th century Europe. Going back even before that, of course, my broader interest in the subject of the Holocaust and World War Two comes from my time as a diplomat with the State Department in Krakow, Poland, working on Polish-Jewish relations and post-Holocaust issues."

Q: What is it about World War Two and Jewish-German relationships that fascinates you and fascinates us?

A: "For me personally, I was in Poland for a few years ... and really immersed in issues that had arisen out of the Holocaust. I also became very personally close to the surviving Jewish community there, and I also came to know their stories. The period of time was very much vivid and alive for me. I think more broadly for people, it's really about an incredibly difficult time where people were just really pushed outside their element and forced to take actions and choices that they otherwise would not have been. I think it's just such a fertile period for talking about choice and consequence, and all those things. What would I have done in those circumstances? I think people tend to put themselves in those shoes."   Continued...