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3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  986 Ratings  ·  192 Reviews
Esther Gottesfeld is the last living survivor of the notorious 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire and has told her story countless times in the span of her lifetime. Even so, her death at the age of 106 leaves unanswered many questions about what happened that fateful day. How did she manage to survive the fire when at least 146 workers, most of them women, her sister and fianc ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published June 13th 2006)
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3rd out of 81 books — 9 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Mar 01, 2007 Mallory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is a gorgeous book drawn from the author's own life and her Grandmother's experiences. After the (fictional)oldest survivor of the Triangle Factory Fires, Esther, passes away, her granddaughter realizes that Esther's story was full of holes as to what actually happened on the afternoon that killed so many, including her fiance and her sister. This is not so much a story of the Triangle Fires, but a story of secrets set against this historical backdrop.

Equally engaging is the sub-plot of mus
Elizabeth (Liz)
May 24, 2007 Elizabeth (Liz) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not quite what I thought, but I enjoyed it. It has an unexpected story line about a guy who could write music based on DNA that would remind you of the person, disease, etc. I am not musical and skimmed most of the music part but in hindsight, I think it did add to the story.

The story is about a survivor of the Triangle shirtwaist factory. It is a story of the will to survive, survivor's guilt, and the survivor's story.
May 28, 2007 Lois rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book and keep recommending it to anyone who loves to learn about history through story. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and the fire that killed so many women is not exactly up there in history classes with the wars, kings and blah de blah public schools keep feeding our children. Its time and place and workers come alive in this book. (a sadly eerie affect for me too while reading it was the strange mirror of the women jumping/stepping out of the 7th and 8th floor window ...more
Jun 06, 2007 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
On one level, this novel is the "What really happened at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire?" historical semi-mystery that one would expect from the covers and blurbs. But it's also so much more. The novel focuses on the last living survivor of the fire, her granddaughter, the granddaughter's partner (a composer - there's some very interesting stuff here about the intersection of music and science), and an academic studying the fire. All of their feelings and motivations play out in different ...more
Feb 03, 2008 Janet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
An unfortunate waste of a great idea. In 1911, a garment sweatshop burned, killing over 100 people. The premise of this book is a good one--what is the true memory of the last survivor of that tragedy, and what really happened that day, and why. There are distracting subplots--one about a composer who writes music based on science could have been a good book on it's own. The dialog is stilted and at times cutesy, but all the parts that are interviews with the survivor, or her recounting her memo ...more
Feb 21, 2008 Marilynmayer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A riveting account of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911 by its oldest living survivor, Esther Gottesfeld. The story includes the reflections of her granddaughter, who is rather perturbed by the historian who seems obsessed with getting to the bottom of that tragic day. Secrets unfold throughout the story and climax at the very end. Great insights into the class struggles of the newly arrived immigrants, many of the fire's victims were Eastern European Jewish immigrants, and the German ...more
May 09, 2008 Clariss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the way this book was written and the characters developed. A lot of time was spent on the grand daughter's love interest and his music which is interesting, as it didn't necessarily have anything to do with Esther's story -- but I really enjoyed the depth into his character and that of Rebecca.
Laura (booksnob)
Aug 14, 2008 Laura (booksnob) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Laura (booksnob) by: women's press
I really liked this book. I had never heard of the Triangle fire before and so was deeply engrossed in the history of the fire and the stories of death and survival. I like how the author wove in the musical theme. I would highly recommend this book. Excellent writing and storytelling. I plan on reading more from this author and looking up pictures and biographies of the survivers.
Jul 06, 2008 Mari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it - read it within 24 hours. Picked it up at The Strand for ONE DOLLAR! The Triangle fire happened kitty-corner from where we're living, so I can SEE the building from our window. Fascinating to be so near history. Plus the book had a lot of folds and layers and was just well-written. Loved it.
Aug 30, 2008 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three characters: the 101 year old survivor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire; the younger couple trying to figure out what really happened; and the music created out from such inspirations as a DNA helix or a protein string. Surprisingly beautiful in the parts involving the couple and the music. Jarring when reliving the fire.

My only quabble with the book is that the old woman is reflected in her interviews with someone who really annoys her. Not knowing about the interviewer until later
Sherry (sethurner)
Oct 30, 2008 Sherry (sethurner) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, history
"This is what happened." Or is it? I enjoyed Triangle very much. It's one of those novels that is set in the present, but flashes back, over and over, to the past. The past here is the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911, the worst NY disaster before the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11. The present concerns the life of a woman named Rebecca, whose grandmother, Esther, was the oldest living survivor of the terrible New York fire. Rebecca is married to George, an innovative composer. Through the co ...more
Jun 22, 2009 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author cleverly brings together a work of historical fiction, a unique theory of music composition, and the story of a contemporary relationship. The historical fiction centers around the notorious 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the personal story of its oldest survivor and her recollection of the horrendous conditions of the workers who were primarily immigrants. There's a mystery surrounding the circumstances of her survival which unfolds as the story of her granddaughter and he ...more
From the front cover to the last page of this book, I found surprises. For example, it took me a couple of glances to see the cover (there are buttons) in the way the author would want me to see them.

In the body of this novel, I found the major characters to be fascinating. We have Esther who survived the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, her granddaughter who is a genetic counselor, her lover who writes amazing music and a pain-in-the-neck feminist. I was amazed that anyone could make any story with th
Aug 01, 2009 skein rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 3-star
I've always had a soft spot in my heart for stories of avoidable disaster, and the Triangle Factory fire in 1911 was nothing if not avoidable. Many that's why I liked this? It is something like a conceptual novel - andthe writing almost always falls flat under the weight of One Good Idea - but not in this case. There is a large amount of repetition - the same long story is told at least five separate times - but the plot (such as it is.) centers - rotates - around memory and loss and grief and l ...more
Aug 01, 2009 Liza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first learned about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in my women's studies class my freshman year of college. I saw this book on the shelf and pulled it off in the hopes that it might center around this event, and it did, but it did so much more. Not only did this give an incredibly vivid account of what it must have been like to work in the factory and also be in the fire, but it also described life as an immigrant, a worker with no rights, and a woman living around the turn of the centur ...more
Feb 09, 2010 Bryce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can you have a book that you just loved, that you wouldn't recommend to anyone?

If so, Triangle is that book for me. Reading the horrific description of the Triangle Shirtwaist Building fire, not once but many times during the book left me wrecked inside. Descriptive is an understatement. This is an emotional roller coaster, both because of the plot and because the reader becomes so wrapped up in the characters. It's too much, really.

But behind those terrible moments is an essential truth and b
The present-day sections of the book were stilted and dragging. There were too many unimportant tangents to the story, and the dialogue was unrealistic. The "surprise" twist to this book was obvious from almost the beginning. Having said all the above, I felt the flashbacks to the Triangle fire were well done, especially at the very end.
Jerry Delaney
The novel is based on the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in 1911 in which 146 people died, mostly young immigrant women. The chapters dealing with the fire were superb and i was also caught up in the story of one survivor's granddaughter and the granddauhter's husband. But wile George's musical theories were interesting, they belonged in a different book. Here, they were too much of a distraction, being completely peripheral to the main story. I'm really sorry that the feminist historian was a ...more
Aug 25, 2010 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am still completely under the spell of this book -- it kept me up past one in the morning because I couldn't put it down until I had finished reading. The novel introduces us to Rebecca Gottesfeld, her partner, the composer George Botkin, and Rebecca's grandmother Esther, the last living survivor of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. As we follow their lives in New York City over the late summer and fall of 2001, we are also often plunged into the past as we hear, over and over, Esther ...more
Aug 25, 2010 Sterlingcindysu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 27, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book had so much potential, but didn't live up to it for me.

Esther is the last living survivor of the 1911 Triangle factory fire. How did she manage to survive on a day when so many others died, including her twin sister, Pauline, and her fiance, Sam? Ruth, a feminist historian, is determined to take a thorough and accurate oral history. She senses that Esther isn't being consistent and is determined to find out why, through repeated interviews.

If the book had just been those interviews an
Nov 19, 2010 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A carefully crafted novel that looks back at the 1911 Triangle factory fire in NYC through the lens of its oldest living survivor in her final days. The determined historian was an overly crass character that seemed a bit over the top, and the transcript repetitions were a bit tedious -- but necessary to catch the subtle slips and inconsistencies that lead to the truth. Ultimately a very satisfying read.
Nov 26, 2010 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last living survivor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire leaves many unanswered questions about the fire. Ruth, a feminist historian, contacts Esther's granddaughter to seek answers but Rebecca never suspected her grandmother was hiding anything, until she begins to listen to Ruth's seemingly wild theories.

Half of this book is very interesting but Weber includes a parallel story about Rebecca's significant other, George, who writes powerful and affecting music based on patterns in nature
Mar 20, 2011 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire so it seemed fitting to find this book at the library. It was the memory of the fire that kept me reading too, because the first chapters almost made me give up on the book. One of the main characters is a composer, and the chapter about him seemed to have the sole purpose of showing off the author's knowledge about music. Likewise with the chapter about another main character, a geneticist -- and again, we learn that the author knows lots a ...more
Mar 13, 2011 Kathryn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book had so much promise - a historical event, a secret, a consideration of how history is remembered and reinterpreted according to people's personal agendas - but it was just not good. No, the parts about the Triangle fire were great, mostly because the event itself is so compelling, but all the subplots were so, so tiresome. It seemed as if the author had chosen a project that she wasn't skilled enough to complete, so she skipped over all the hardest-to-write parts and tried to write aro ...more
Jun 17, 2011 Gwen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is beautifully written, haunting, and thought-provoking. As I read this historical tale-cum-mystery, I wanted my stepson to read it (musical composition), my walking partner to read it (ethical questions), my colleagues to read it (can we use it in class? are feminist scholars that ...), my book club to read it (Triangle Fire and its resonances in the Jewish community) ... and I could not put it down.

The novel traces the parallel lives of Esther Gottesfeld, the last known survivor of t
Nov 18, 2011 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Katharine Weber's central story of the 1911 tragic fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory has SO much potential....but, the end product just doesn't hold together for me. Esther Gottesfields, an immigrant and factory worker who survives the fire, is a sympathetic and interesting central character. The social-economic conditions are vivid and dramatic. What goes wrong? The author fractures her story between the grand daughter (who searches for the fire story,) her husband (who obsesses over his ...more
Bonnie Brody
Feb 28, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bonnie by: Book Club Selection
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
Mar 08, 2013 Agnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a telling story of how one person created a life out of a tragedy.

I had known of this fire but didn't realize any survivor had lived to that great age. (I will nees to check that out.) I found the herstorian to be very abrasive in her actions. Why so much about the composer and his role was troubling until later. I now see how both Rebecca and George could be related back several generations if the sexual abuse part is correct, and it most likely was.

Kressel Housman
When historical fiction is done well, it’s my favorite genre, but when an author takes too many liberties with the facts, it really gets on my nerves. This author not only invented fictional victims of the Triangle Fire, she tried to pull off a surprise ending, and frankly, I just didn’t get it. The only reason I’m giving the book 2 stars instead of the hated 1 is that the characters were compelling enough to keep me reading till the end. The “herstorian” (feminist historian) was especially, alb ...more
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Katharine Weber’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. She was named by Granta to the controversial list of 50 Best Young America
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