"Triangle" by Katharine Weber

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Katharine Weber has taken a deadly fire in 1911 New York and spun a tale of family heritage, survival, avant garde music, and a possible love triangle. Rebecca is the granddaughter of Esther, and Esther, aged 106 at the time of her death, lived for 90 years after surviving the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. fire of 1911. Unbeknownst to Rebecca, Esther has been interviewed on several occasions by Ruth, who values Esther as a primary source of knowledge about the fire.

After Esther dies, Ruth interviews Rebecca in turn, and we learn that Ruth suspects Esther of having been suborned and bribed in the trial of the Triangle company after the fire. Ms. Weber portrays Ruth as a comically stilted and blinkered scholar, absorbed in her work and without a life, and intolerant of any who do not value her crusade as much as she does. The interaction between her and Rebecca, and Rebecca's lover George, is sharp, comical, charged, and in some ways is the climax of the story. George is George Botkin, a mucial genius, a world-reknowned composer and synesthetic who sees the world, particularly the microorganisms that populate it, in musical terms. He writes an oratorio commemorating Esther and the Shirtwaist fire, which clearly comes across as a work of genius and the only fitting tribute to Esther and to the people who lost their lives in the fire.

"Triangle" weaves several tightly interconnecting themes and plot elements into a satisfying whole. I believe Ms. Weber's main point focuses on the rapacity of business owners in the early 20th century. She treats with scorn the arch silliness of starry-eyed and tendentious scholarship, and reveres the magical power of art and love.

I recommend "Triangle" quite highly. Its sometimes oblique and sometimes plainly transparent treatment of its subject will leave you impressed, satisfied, thoughtful.
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