Thursday, July 10, 2014

Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman

Hello, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Ayelet Waldman's latest, Love & Treasure.

In his final days, Natalie's grandfather knows that his death will leave his granddaughter reeling. Newly divorced and jobless, he fears she will need some purpose in her life to keep her going. It comes in the form of a peacock pendant - one she wore on her wedding day. Natalie had always assumed that it had belonged to her grandmother. As it turns out, the pendant has a history that is both long and shrouded in mystery. 

In the end days of WWII a group of American soldiers comes across a train traveling through Austria. Officials on the train say that it is carrying the property of Hungary, but instead turns out to carry the life's possessions of Hungary's Jewish families. Possessions these families were forced to turn over to the government during the war. Jack Wiseman is tasked with emptying the train and inventorying the items inside, a job that leads him to a DP (displaced person) named Ilona and eventually the pendant. It's taken him seventy years to tell his part of the story, but it will take Natalie and her efforts to bring the tale to its end (and true beginning). 

Ayelet Waldman's latest is based on the very real Hungarian Gold Train of WWII. I know you're probably sick of hearing how fascinated I am with WWII but it continues to draw me in as a setting and a focus in books. And each author's approach is different, sometimes extraordinarily so. In just a week's time, for example, I've tackled two WWII based titles - The Sea Garden and this one. Both are based on real but different aspects of the war (The Sea Garden on resistance efforts in France and England and Love & Treasure on the Gold Train).

Anyway, back to Love & Treasure. Here the WWII focus and setting are a vehicle for another kind of tale - one of love and friendship. It's a bit of a mystery, a bit of an adventure, and an overall great story that fits perfectly within the setting. Today's news is still full of stories of discoveries of stolen art and possessions from WWII and attempts to repatriate them, that alone makes for a fascinating plot. Here, however, Waldman has built a dual storyline that takes place present day and during WWII (plus a bit in the early 1900s as well). Jack's work in Austria, his meeting Ilona, and the eventual pocketing of the necklace are just half of the story. Natalie is then thrust into a world of questionable art dealing and sent on an international hunt to try and return the pendant to its rightful owner. And in doing so of course discovers some things about herself as well.

The historical aspects of the book are wonderfully wrought and seemingly expertly researched. The train itself was - if Wikipedia is to be believed (per the link above) - kept secret from the public through the late 90s. Of course the story is also very centered on religious identity and culture. It's an admirable work, one that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on the author and her work (including book club info for Love & Treasure), you can find her on the web here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

This is so exactly the kind of book I love to read. Thanks for being a part of the tour!