Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review - Triangle by Katherine Weber

Triangle by Katherine Weber
published 5/07
257 pages

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at

Esther Gottesfeld is the last living survivor of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire of 1911, and she is tired of telling her story. Something of a celebrity in the weeks and months immediately after the trial, she was subjected to court cases and newspaper interviews about her miraculous escape. Now, at age 106, Esther just wants to forget - but the fire, and the deaths of her beloved sister and fiance, still haunt her dreams.

When Ruth Zion, a feminist scholar researching the fire, contacts Esther about her story, Esther reluctantly agrees to meet her. As Ruth questions the aging Esther about that horrific day, she begins to detect inconsistencies in the story. Is it just the pitfalls of old age, or could Esther truly be hiding something? What could she possibly know about the fire that she is too scared to tell?

Rebecca Gottesfeld, Esther's granddaughter, is a brilliant geneticist. She and her partner, composer George Botkin, are the only family Esther has left, and the three are inseparable. When Esther dies, Rebecca is surprised to be contacted by Ruth but agrees to meet with her. At first infuriated by Ruth's suggestion that Esther might have been lying, Rebecca and George soon can't dispute that Esther's story might not add up. But how can you learn the truth about a life after someone is already gone?

In Triangle, author Katharine Weber explores the ways in which a person can tell the story of their life. By weaving together George's unique instrumental compositions and the fantastic tale of Esther's escape, she illustrates how both music and a person's life can be carefully constructed, and how the interpretation of both lies in the ear of the listener.

Weber's story ensnares readers from the first page, carrying them seamlessly through the intertwining tales of past and present. While her characters and dialog at times feel a bit too perfectly created, the story itself is interesting enough to overlook that small quibble. This is a fascinating look at a piece of modern American history, and readers will surely find themselves eager to discover the truth of Esther's life.

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