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About the Book


Much has been written about the notorious 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire that took the lives of at least 146 garment workers, most of them women. But Triangle, Katharine Weber’s mesmerizing novel, brings a unique vision to the history and recollections surrounding that event. At the center of the story is Esther Gottesfeld, who at age 106 is the last living survivor of the gruesome tragedy. Her testimony was a crucial element in the criminal trial that ensued. When Esther dies, her few belongings raise new questions about her story, and two women find themselves at odds while trying to reconstruct the truth.

Esther’s granddaughter, Rebecca Gottesfeld, a scientist, has been raised to believe that chance enabled Esther to escape while her sister and fiancé perished in the sweatshop blaze. After Rebecca receives a call from the feminist historian Ruth Zion, she is both resentful and curious to learn that her grandmother had granted Ruth a series of interviews. Ruth’s research on other Triangle workers proposes disturbing alternative possibilities about the nature of Esther’s suffering and survival. With her partner, George Botkin, an ingenious composer, Rebecca begins to sift through new artifacts, wondering whether the discrepancies in her grandmother’s stories were caused by ordinary human fallacy, or are the consequence of secret histories having been concealed in the remnants of an industrial inferno. The historian, the scientist granddaughter, and the musician each give voice to an essential, though sometimes conflicting, aspect of the fire and its repercussions.

Leading us to consider how we tell our stories, how we hear them, and how history is forged from unverifiable truths, Triangleis a brilliant ode to the memorial process itself, and to the lives lost on that terrible day.

by Katharine Weber

  • Publication Date: June 13, 2006
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • ISBN-10: 0374281424
  • ISBN-13: 9780374281427