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Triangle: A Novel Paperback – May 15, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (May 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312426143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312426149
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #799,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire killed 146 workers, most of them women, and galvanized efforts to reform working conditions in sweatshops. In Esther Gottesfeld, the last remaining survivor of the Triangle fire, Weber (The Little Women) creates a believable and memorable witness to the horrors of that day. Esther managed to escape, but her fiancé, Sam, and her sister, Pauline, both perished in the blaze. In 2001, Esther is living in a New York Jewish retirement home, visited often by her beloved granddaughter Rebecca and Rebecca's longtime partner, George Botkin. Rebecca and George's story and quirky rapport take up half of the book, and descriptions of George's music provide a needed counterpoint to the harrowing accounts of the fire and its aftermath. But Ruth Zion, a humorless but perceptive feminist scholar, sees inconsistencies in Esther's story and determines to ferret them out through repeated interviews with Esther and, after her death, with Rebecca. The novel carefully, and wrenchingly, allows both the reader and Rebecca to discover the secret truth about Esther and the Triangle without spelling it out; it is a truth that brings home the real sufferings of factory life as well as the human capacity to tell the stories we want to hear. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–The 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City killed almost 150 people. Weber blends that fact with an interesting and believable fictional premise in this novel about Esther Gottesfeld, the oldest living survivor of the disaster. How did she survive while her fiancé and twin sister, Pauline, perished? Esther's granddaughter, Rebecca, and Rebecca's partner, George, are caught in the middle of a battle of wills as Ruth Zion, a Triangle historian, shows a dogged determination to uncover the truth about that fatal day that sends her beyond investigative journalism into obsession. George is a renowned composer whose works are based on science, like the molecular sequences of an individual's DNA. Triangle is a series of complex, multilayered, triangular connections with links as tight as the threads in a shirt–Esther, Pauline, and the fiancé; Esther, Rebecca, and George; Rebecca, George, and Ruth–the permutations go on and on. Branching off into music theory and chemistry, this is a challenging and somewhat esoteric read that should appeal to mathematically and scientifically inclined teens as well as those who enjoy the mystery of the human heart and its relationships.–Charli Osborne, Oxford Public Library, MI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Katharine Weber's five highly-praised and award-winning novels have made her a book club favorite. Her sixth book, a memoir called The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities, was published by Crown in July 2011 and won raves from the critics, from Ben Brantley in the New York Times ("Ms. Weber is able to arrange words musically, so that they capture the elusive, unfinished melodies that haunt our memoires of childhood") to the Dallas Morning News ("gracefully written, poignant and droll"), the NY Daily News ("Old Scandals, what fun...the core of her tale is that of elegant sin and betrayal"), and the Boston Globe (a masterful memoir of the private world of a very public family"), among others. The Broadway paperback of The Memory of All That was published in 2012.

Her most recent novel, True Confections, the story of a chocolate candy factory in crisis, was published in January 2010 by Shaye Areheart Books and was published in December 2010 in paperback by Broadway Books. Critics raved: "A great American tale" (New York Times Book Review), "Marvelous, a vividly imagined story about love, obsession and betrayal" (Boston Globe), "Katharine Weber is one of the wittiest, most stimulating novelists at work today...wonderful fun and endlessly provocative" (Chicago Tribune),"Succulently inventive" (Washington Post),"Her most delectable novel yet" (L.A. Times).

Katharine's fiction debut in print, the short story "Friend of the Family," appeared in The New Yorker in January, 1993. Her first novel, Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (of which that story was a chapter), was published by Crown Publishers, Inc. in 1995 and was published in paperback by Picador in 1996. It will be published in a new paperback edition by Broadway Books in Summer, 2011.

She was named by Granta to the controversial list of 50 Best Young American Novelists in 1996.

Her second novel, The Music Lesson, was published by Crown Publishers, Inc. in 1999, and was published in paperback by Picador in 2000. The Music Lesson has been published in twelve foreign languages, and is being reissued in the U.S. by Broadway Books in January, 2011.

The Little Women was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2003 and by Picador in 2004. All three novels were named Notable Books by The New York Times Book Review.

Her fourth novel, Triangle, which takes up the notorious Triangle Waist company factory fire of 1911, was published in 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and in 2007 by Picador.

Katharine's maternal grandmother was the songwriter Kay Swift. Since Swift's death in 1993, Katharine has been a Trustee and the Administrator of the Kay Swift Memorial Trust, which is dedicated to preserving and promoting the music of Kay Swift. This work includes the first Broadway musical with a score by a woman, "Fine and Dandy," and several popular show tunes of the era, among them "Fine and Dandy" and "Can't We Be Friends?" (

Katharine is on the staff at Star, a foundation dedicated to offering personal growth retreats in the Arizona desert. (

Katharine is the Richard L. Thomas Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College, a five-year appointment to teach every spring term beginning in 2013. In the past she has taught fiction writing at Connecticut College, Yale University (for eight years), and the Paris Writers Workshop. She was the Kratz Writer in Residence at Goucher College in Spring 2006, and was an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the graduate writing program in the School of the Arts at Columbia University for six years.

Katharine is married to the cultural historian Nicholas Fox Weber (author most recently of The Bauhaus Group), and they have two daughters.

Customer Reviews

I found it to be very dull for the most part.
A. M. Eldridge
Written in clear and brilliant prose, "Triangle" succeeds in engaging the reader on so many levels--the readers' experience is multifolded and undeniably fascinating.
It is brilliant and beautifully written, literate and musical at the same time.
Bonnie Brody

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Roni Jordan on July 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Creating a fascinating counterpoint between the infamous tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and the world of genetic studies and music, Katharine Weber had me enthralled from the words "This is what happened." Even when she departs from 106-year-old Esther's recollections of the fire to discuss the evolution of George's musical genius, she does so easily and with the ability to hold this reader in her grip. The subject matter is never less than intriguing, often mesmerizing. George, Rebecca, and Esther feel like true, living people I would want to know. Unfortunately, in the character of Ruth Zion, the feminist herstorian, Weber has crafted someone so abrasive, so annoying and utterly insensitive that she is more a caricature than a believable character. This was a huge letdown in comparison to the more humanly drawn central figures. Nevertheless, this is one of the better reads I've enjoyed this summer. The ending, though not the total surprise some have suggested, is heartbreakingly written, with just a touch of ambiguity to leave me a bit puzzled about the other triangle, the love triangle of Esther, Jacob and Pauline.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Weber weaves an esoteric musical theme through her novel of the last survivor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy of 1911, the improbable romance of two unusual people, composer George Botkin and geneticist Rebecca Gottesfeld. George's music explores "all sorts of formations found in nature for their musical possibilities, especially genetic codes and cell structures." His long-time paramour, Rebecca, is the granddaughter of Esther Gottesfeld, now one-hundred-six-years old and dying of natural causes, the last human archive of one of the most shocking exposes in the garment industry of the early 1900's. Esther's world is clouded with the painful images of the fire that took the lives of 146 people, including her fiancé and sister, Pauline, leaving Esther to raise her unborn child without the comfort of family. When Esther's son and his wife are killed in an automobile accident, it is she who raises Rebecca, her darling granddaughter.

Esther's narrow escape from the Triangle fire is told through a series of court documents and personal interviews with Ruth Zion, a woman's rights advocate, compiling what she believes will be the definitive "herstory" of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the patriarchy that allowed it to happen. Ruth fails to penetrate Esther's painful secrets, knowledge the old woman has kept to herself for all the years of her long life. Hoping to uncover discrepancies in Esther's account of the fire, Ruth interviews Esther as often as circumstances permit, repeating the same questions over and over, but the wily old woman remains vigilant, sensing the ill-intentions of the researcher.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Errin on July 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
having done extensive research on the triangle shirtwaist factory fire, i was very interested to read this novel. the main plot was riveting, but the subplot dealing with the composer boyfriend was irritating. at the beginning of the book, twentyish pages are devoted to a drawn out and boring description of his genius. the language is excessively technical, and the whole of it seems unnecessary to the rest of the novel. the story provokes many questions about the nature of academic research and the reliability of oral histories, but overall it fell sort of flat.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By K. L Sadler VINE VOICE on March 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had read about the Triangle fire of 1911 many years ago, so when this book popped up and was recommended by I could not resist. This was an interesting book in more ways than one. It centers on the last living survivor of that disaster, who is now dying from natural causes of old age. She had apparently given numerous interviews to reporters concerning what she remembered about the fire, but as an old curmudgeon she really knew how to put reporters with inappropriate suggestions in their place (and shut them up!) To bad, we can't all take lessons on how to deal with such annoying people, whether reporters, nosy neighbors, invasive bosses, etc.

Anyway, the story of the fire is intertwined with the current day through the old lady's granddaughter who she raised by herself after her only child died in a car accident. Of course, she spoke to her granddaughter about that time period, and about the loss of her beloved sister and her fiance. This woman did the smart thing, and did not lose her cool under pressure, maybe partly because she was bearing a child. So instead of screaming and running for the main door which would only open inward instead of outward, she headed toward the dooor the bosses used.

In reading the nonfictional accounts of this disaster, it becomes all too clear that there were those men and women who showed bravery in the face of danger, and then there were those whose only thought was for themselves. To make matters worse, there were young children involved who sewed by hand, even though by that time, child labor was being banned. The horrendous conditions which made it only a matter of time before a disaster of this proportion occurred, were once again done at risk of lives just to make a profit. Sound familiar?
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