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Threads and Flames Hardcover – November 24, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
Friesner's novel opens in 1910, with thirteen-year old Raisa, recently recuperated from typhus, leaving her Polish shtetl to meet up with her sister Henda in America. After a long and difficult journey by cart, train, and ship, Raisa finally arrives in New York, only to learn that her sister has disappeared. With no job, no family, nowhere to live and unable to speak English, she seeks refuge in a synagogue, where she meets a kind young rabbinical student, Gavrel, whose mother just happens to have room for boarders. Soon Gavrel helps Raisa get a job where he works, at the very modern Triangle Shirtwaist factory in the Asch building. In addition to working long hours at the factory, Raisa goes to evening English classes where she dreams of becoming a teacher. She still hopes to find her sister, but how to do so in such a huge city? In telling Raisa's story, Friesner paints a rich picture of Jewish immigrant life at the turn of the century; we can almost smell the food at the markets and see the celebrations for the different Jewish holidays.
But Raisa's life changes forever on a March afternoon, when fire breaks out on the 8th floor of the Triangle factory. Hundreds of desperate workers tried to get out, but the doors on the stairway that could have provided a safe exit were locked--locked because the owners were afraid the young girls who worked at the factory would steal. Some, like Raisa, escape on the elevator, running outside only to see the horrific sight of bodies plunging through the air, with their clothes and hair on fire.Read more ›
While the book is undoubtedly about the Triangle fire, Raisa doesn't even start working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory until at least halfway through the book, maybe more. Usually, this delay of the "point" of the story would drive me batty, but in this instance, I didn't mind the wait. Raisa is such a fun character; she's so headstrong and determined to do what is right for her sisters, both Henda and Brina. It never occurs to her that she shouldn't take responsibility for Brina, even though she can barely take care of herself. I was rooting for her before she even got to Ellis Island. Raisa's little romance with Gavrel is also handled beautifully. When you're reading about Raisa who is on her own and working more than full time to make enough money to cover room and board for two people, it's easy to forget how young she is. Her relationship with Gavrel, however, with all of Raisa's do I or don't I feelings, constantly reminded me that she's just in her early teens.Read more ›
This book was a great historical fiction novel with its main conflict coming from the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on March 25, 1911 where the main character Raisa and most of her friends work. But that doesn't occur until near the end of the book.
Raisa just managed to survive typhus in her Polish shtetl before she embarks on a journey to America to meet her older sister Henda who has lived there for the past four years. On the boat, she befriends Zusa, a young woman about her age, and begins to take care of little Brina whose mother dies on the ship. Upon arrival, she begins to search for Henda. Unfortunately Henda had received a letter informing her of Raisa's death and is thus nowhere to be found. Luckily for Raisa, though, she finds a good room to let and soon starts earning money. Eventually all of the main young characters end up working for the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory leading to the fire that devastates a community and highlights the inequities of the American economic system.
Raisa was a very brave girl; she turns fourteen on the ship over but she acts much more maturely than me and I'm twenty-one. She takes on the responsibility of caring for Brina and she works tirelessly to master sewing with a machine as well as learning English. Of course, she also gets to have fun with her friends Zusa, Italian immigrant Luciana, and dreamy Gavrel, the son of her landlords.
The historical details were fantastic! Although this is not my time period, I felt very immersed in the world described.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Friesner really captured the rhythm of tenement life. A personal spin on a preventable tragedy.Published 1 month ago by Lady M
Well written! About page 170 the book becomes a page turner, and you just have to keep reading to find out what happens.Published 11 months ago by pensifpoet
I highly recommend this book. It highlighted an interesting time in history from a unique perspective. It is definitely worth a read!Published on April 29, 2014 by Claudia Falzarano
I've always been fascinated by the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Manhattan, 1911, and discovered this book at the library a year or so ago. Read morePublished on October 10, 2013 by Constant Reader
I was absolutely IN LOVE with Esther Friesner's "Threads and Flames". This historical fiction book takes you into Raisa's adventue as she tries to find her sister Henda in... Read morePublished on November 3, 2012 by andre, Karina
I really enjoyed reading this book. Not only did they encompass the struggles of immigration, but they also effectively described the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Read morePublished on October 2, 2012 by M Bosworth
There is always something magical, for me, about reading a historical book. If done correctly, I am immediately transported into a different era, and feel the story within my... Read morePublished on March 19, 2012 by Violette Star
Wow! I loved this book, and so did my sister. It was a tragic and sad story with a little romance tied in. Read morePublished on August 9, 2011 by L. Chen