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Triangle: A Novel Hardcover – June 13, 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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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.

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (June 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374281424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374281427
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,380,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Usually I know right where I'm going when I write a review but this book has me a bit stymied because of its thematic content. It is brilliant and beautifully written, literate and musical at the same time. It tackles great themes and does it subtly yet with a great strength. It is one of the finest books I've ever read.

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.
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