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Triangle: A Novel Paperback – May 15, 2007
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Pre-order today
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“Extraordinary . . . Triangle is a strange, haunting and utterly compelling work that will linger long, like smoke after a fire.” ―The Baltimore Sun
“A thing of beauty. . . . A structurally dazzling novel whose formal acrobatics have a purpose beyond their own cleverness. That is, to make readers feel anew the tragedy of the Triangle fire.” ―Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air
“Katharine Weber's crackerjack historical mystery, may be the most effective 9/11 novel yet written--and it isn't even about 9/11.” ―Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
Katharine Weber is the author of three novels. Her paternal grandmother finished buttonholes for the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in 1909. She lives in Connecticut.
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The story is about the Triangle Factory fire which was, prior to 9/11, the worst tragedy that ever befell New York. One hundred forty-six men, women and children were killed in a fire that occurred in a sweat shop on the lower east side of Manhattan. This fire helped spur unions to grow and protect workers. Had there been exits available when the fire occurred, almost all of the deaths could have been prevented. As the story opens, Esther Gottesfeld is 106 years old, the oldest survivor of the 1911 tragedy. It is shortly after 9/11 and the two events are synchronous in the story-telling. Esther is being interviewed by an arrogant feminist scholar, Ruth Zion, who is trying to find out information about the fire and pry secrets out of Esther. Esther is too wise and cagey for Ruth Zion to get very far.
The story is also about Esther's granddaughter, Rebecca, who lives with George Botkin, the most famous composer of contemporary U.S. music. He writes music about DNA strands, chemistry, echinacea, and Huntington's Disease (which he may have inherited). His music is loved by a wide audience.
The story weaves back and forth in time and between characters. The strongest parts of the book are those about Esther while the most original parts of the book are about George and Rebecca. There are secrets to be found out and secrets to be kept. One fascinating theme in the book is the connections between the Triangle Fire, 9/11, and music - another triangle. We find out that Rebecca and George share similar DNA strands. For two people very much in love, this seems serendipitous but also sweet.
The ending of this book is dreamlike and written in stream of consciousness. I could not come up for air as its beauty swept me with it like a tide. The last 40 pages are as beautiful as anything I've ever read. I highly recommend this book.
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? Think about the recent mining 'accidents' in West Virginia, as well as the ongoing fight against pharmaceutical companies who push their medications for things those medicines were not intended for and whose contents had not been analyzed.
This book followed a current fad in 'stream of consiousness' in which the older woman who is dying is rambling and her thoughts run into one another, similar to how we think without placing periods or commas at the end of one sentence and one idea, then immediately going on to another topic. This alternated with regular and descriptive chapters dealing with the granddaughter of this dying woman, who is trying to best handle her grandmother's wishes, while trying to stave off the reporter 'vultures' who are circling to get that lst piece of information that will mean a best-seller (even if the ideas are slightly less than truthful or a bit scandalouse in order to attract readers).
This isn't my usual reading fare, but it was a good, fast-paced and well written book. It did not dwell too much on the fire, but focused instead on the heroics of many, and the continued lives of those who survived the fire. Life did go on, though many lives were forever changed because of the fire. And ultimately, the fire did lead to changes in rules, changes in how the rickety outer stairs were built, changes in fire departments and their equipment to make it more likely to save more lives. It also brought back the disaster of the Challenger, which was similar to the Triangle Fire in the push for necessary corrections. It still bothers me to this day, that those responsible for the Triangle fire, the Challenger fiasco, and other such catastrophes such as the Johnstown flood would never face real prison time. Instead they were able to buy themselves out of their predicaments. One can only hope that their memories and happy times were forever altered becauseof the lives they took.
This story would make a good movie...
Karen L. Sadler