Monday, June 2, 2014

Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours/Netgalley
Read: May 28, 2014

A spellbinding new novel of contraband masterpieces, tragic love, and the unexpected legacies of forgotten crimes, Ayelet Waldman’s Love and Treasure weaves a tale around the fascinating, true history of the Hungarian Gold Train in the Second World War. In 1945 on the outskirts of Salzburg, victorious American soldiers capture a train filled with unspeakable riches: piles of fine gold watches; mountains of fur coats; crates filled with wedding rings, silver picture frames, family heirlooms, and Shabbat candlesticks passed down through generations. Jack Wiseman, a tough, smart New York Jew, is the lieutenant charged with guarding this treasure—a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets Ilona, a fierce, beautiful Hungarian who has lost everything in the ravages of the Holocaust. Seventy years later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, Jack gives a necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie Stein, and charges her with searching for an unknown woman—a woman whose portrait and fate come to haunt Natalie, a woman whose secret may help Natalie to understand the guilt her grandfather will take to his grave and to find a way out of the mess she has made of her own life. A story of brilliantly drawn characters—a suave and shady art historian, a delusive and infatuated Freudian, a family of singing circus dwarfs fallen into the clutches of Josef Mengele, and desperate lovers facing choices that will tear them apart—Love and Treasure is Ayelet Waldman’s finest novel to date: a sad, funny, richly detailed work that poses hard questions about the value of precious things in a time when life itself has no value, and about the slenderest of chains that can bind us to the griefs and passions of the past.

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I wasn't entirely sure Ayelet Waldman could pull this off. It's nothing personal, I'd never read her before picking up Love & Treasure, but telling a multigenerational story through a single piece of jewelry is a pretty tall order. One Waldman managed beautifully if I do say so myself.

The setting is what originally drew me to this piece, but when push comes to shove Love & Treasure isn't really a WWII fiction, at least not in the traditional sense. Yes, the war and the Holocaust factor in the pendant's journey, but the story itself is about people and larger concepts like friendship and family and the bonds that bind them together. 

A bittersweet tale, Waldman weaves the gambit of human emotion into a complex plot, incorporating history and politics and culture in a strikingly ambitious publication. Some might find it weighty, but the manner in which Waldman brought everything together truly appealed to me. 

My only criticism is the characters. I don't mean to sound persnickety, but I found the cast difficult to appreciate. Try as I might I just couldn't relate to these people or rouse much enthusiasm for their individual situations. They aren't poorly drawn by any means, I simply don't feel they compare to the rest of Waldman's material.

A powerful fiction, Love & Treasure is a thought-provoking and poignant tale that is both brutally honest and illuminating. 

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"The wealth of the Jews of Hungary, of all of Europe, was to be found not in the laden boxcars of the Gold Train but in the grandmothers and mothers and daughters themselves, in the doctors and lawyers, the grain dealers and psychiatrists, the writers and artists and artists who had created a culture of sophistication, of intellectual and artistic achievement. And that wealth, everything of real value, was but all extinguished." 
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Check Out All the Stops on Ayelet Waldman's Love & Treasure Virtual Book Tour Schedule


Tuesday, May 27
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Wednesday, May 28
Guest Post at Passion for Novels
Thursday, May 29
Review at Mari Reads
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Friday, May 30
Review at She Reads Novels
Review at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Monday, June 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, June 4
Review at Seaside Book Corner
Thursday, June 5
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Friday, June 6
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Monday, June 9
Review at Closed the Cover
Tuesday, June 10
Interview at Closed the Cover
Wednesday, June 11
Review at A Bookish Girl
Review at Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, June 13
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Monday, June 16
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Wednesday, June 18
Review at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, June 19
Review at Book Nerd
Friday, June 20
Review at Curling Up with a Good Book
Monday, June 23
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Tuesday, June 24
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Wednesday, June 25
Review at Lit Nerd
Thursday, June 26
Review at The Little Reader Library
Friday, June 27
Review at Man of la Book
Monday, June 30
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Just One More Chapter
Interview at Layered Pages
Tuesday, July 1
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Wednesday, July 2
Review at From L.A. to LA
Review at Mina’s Bookshelf
Thursday, July 3
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

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