Wednesday, April 09, 2014

LOVE AND TREASURE by Ayelet Waldman

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I think Ayelet Waldman is such a gifted writer and I have been waiting for her next book for quite some time. Her latest book deals with WWII and the looting of Jewish possessions. The book opens Jack Wiseman who is dying of pancreatic cancer.  He entrusts her with a mystery that came from his time in Europe during WWII.  The book then moves back to WWII in 1945 where we meet young Jack Wiseman in Salzburg. He is in charge of cataloging the contents of the Hungarian Gold Train. When the US military took possession of the train, they discovered that it was filled with the looted possessions of Jewish people. As a Jew, Jack has conflicting emotions about the contents of the train and their disposal. During his time in Salzburg, he meets a beautiful refugee from a concentration camp and gets caught up in her story. Before his time in Salzburg is over, Jack will have taken a peacock-shaped necklace from the train. It is this necklace that he will entrust to his granddaughter in the hope that she will find its rightful owners.  The story goes back and forth between the present day and the distant past giving us a glimpse of the necklace's origins in the early 1900's.  It tells a story of love and loss and the fallout from war and crimes long past.

This book wasn't a particularly easy read but it made me think a lot about some of the ethical issues that came up with what happened during the war.  It was also interesting to see a little bit of the story of the Jews in Europe before WWII as well as the story of those Jewish people displaced by war who made their way to Israel to start a new life. The book is so intriguing but often frustrating as Waldman doesn't give us answers to many of our questions. In some ways, I kept hoping for the book to be a little more like PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Brooks or POSSESSION by Byatt.  I wanted some shocking/surprising revelations from either the story itself or research done by its characters. It never quite got there. I still enjoyed it, though.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. Waldman provides us with another well-written book filled with compelling characters and an interesting story. She proves that there are still many stories to be told about WWII.

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