Synopsis: 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.
Likes: I am beyond fascinated with World War II so this book appealed to me immediately. What I really loved is that it was set in Hungary; so many books about WWII are set in Germany or Poland so it was nice to read about how the war affected other parts of Europe. I have never heard of the Hungarian Gold Train before so that's another thing to add to my 'research more' list. The first section of the book really focuses on the gold train; it was heartbreaking to read about all the items that had been confiscated from the Jews of Hungary I also liked that the first section of the story was set in post WWII Hungary as it was interesting to see the characters cope with the aftermath of such horror.
Characters: There were a lot of main characters in this book some of which I liked more than others. I liked Jack the best. He was such a conflicted character and the fact that he was not perfect made him even more likable. He wanted so badly to do the right thing in regards to the gold train but his position in the military made it impossible. I felt bad for him in regards to Ilona. He seemed to truly be enamored with her but the feelings did not appear to be mutual even if she gave him the impression they were.
Dislikes: I wasn't a huge fan of the last section of the story. While interesting, I found myself wanting to know more about Ilona and Jack and I didn't care as much about Mrs. E. I understand why the section was included but the way the story was broken up into three sections made it seem more like I was reading three separate stories. They were all connected but didn't feel cohesive.
Overall: Love and Theft is an unusual story and the perfect read for anyone with an interest in World War II and it's aftermath. 3 stars.
About the Author:
For more information please visit Ayelet’s website. Her missives also appear on Facebook and Twitter.
Her books are published throughout the world, in countries as disparate as England and Thailand, the Netherlands and China, Russia and Israel, Korea and Italy.
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