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3.48  ·  Rating details ·  1,124 ratings  ·  209 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
Hardcover, 242 pages
Published June 13th 2006 by Farrar Straus Giroux
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Katharine Yes! Exactly. If you go back to the way she tells the story of the day of the fire, other assumed she was Esther and that was where it began. She went…moreYes! Exactly. If you go back to the way she tells the story of the day of the fire, other assumed she was Esther and that was where it began. She went with that for all sorts of reasons (one being that her unborn child would have a hero for a father instead of a rapist).(less)

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Average rating 3.48  · 
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Mar 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
May 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Nov 18, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Aug 11, 2010 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 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jerry Delaney
Aug 11, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Feb 03, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Bonnie Brody
Feb 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Jeffrey Beyer
Feb 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Musicians, History Folk
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Madelyn the Greater
I thought this was fabulous! It was odd though that it was rooted in such history and reality but still fiction. Weber did a really good job of describing the music elements that as a reader I was just like, "How does this not exist?!" I really wish it did because the Triangle Oratorio would be amazing.

The only fault was that Grosse Pointe was spelled without an e. Damn them.


I just reread (finished 2/8/2020) Triangle after finding a copy for $5 at Powell’s, and still feel about the same a
Oct 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Dec 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of music theory
The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911 is an endlessly fascinating subject to mine for literature (fiction and non). There are lots of unknowns there, and plenty to be angry about. There's also the fact that, when you consider the creation of less expensive clothing, what happened in a little building in New York is by no means an event of the past. Just go to Bangladesh to visit the crumbling buildings where the young ladies work away at the Primark "bargains" to see what I mean.

But this book isn
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 28, 2009 rated it liked it
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 - and the 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 ...more
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sherry (sethurner)
Oct 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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
Nov 26, 2010 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
Aug 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Elizabeth (Liz)
May 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.

May 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Although the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire actually happened, the book alternates between that horrific event and a modern-day story that's interesting in its own way. Makes me want to read more about the history of the factory, and I wonder what impact this fire had on the unionization of sweatshops early in the 20th century. ...more
Apr 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a historical fiction about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in NYC in the early 1900's. It is an insight into the sweatshops where so many young immigrant girls worked after arriving in America. It has a definite twist to the ending. I wasn't sure about this book when I began it but I really did enjoy the book and learned a great deal. ...more
May 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
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Play Book Tag: Triangle / Katharine Weber. 2.5 stars 1 8 Jan 17, 2020 08:08PM  

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Katharine Weber's six novels and memoir, all highly-praised, some, award-winning, have made her a book club favorite.

Her newest novel and seventh book, STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY (Paul Dry Books), has had rave reviews and praise:

"Stark and compelling . . . Rigorously unsentimental yet suffused with emotion: possibly the best work yet from an always stimulating writer."―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


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