I have become quite fussy about World War Two novels since there are so many out there these days. However, I have found one with new information; at least, new to me. LOVE & TREASURE by Ayelet Waldman is decidedly full of stellar research. And it is written with a loving hand.
Jack Wiseman served America during World War Two. He was part of the group of American servicemen who captured the Hungarian Gold Train, just outside of Salzburg, Germany in 1945. Jack was put in charge of guarding all the treasure; a daunting task to say the least. What is this gold train, you may ask, as did I? I had heard nothing of this in all my reading of World War Two. The Jews of Hungary were lightened of all their worldly goods before being prodded onto boxcars and whisked away to atrocious places such as Auschwitz and Buchenwald. All these belongings: gold, jewelry, art work, silver, diamonds, anything of value, were gathered up and transported on this Gold Train. Ostensibly, these valuables were on their way to be returned to their rightful owners now that the war was over. Right. And I have some land to sell you, too. The truth is that none of these things ended up in the right pockets.
LOVE & TREASURE begins in modern time. Jack Wiseman is a dying man. He’s going to visit his granddaughter Natalie Stein. When Jack gives Natalie a pendant with a peacock on it, we begin to become suspicious. As we should. Jack needs Natalie to promise him she will locate the owner of this intricate piece of jewelry.
This novel is full of strong characters filled with guilt and love. I love learning through fiction. And learn I did. I will be on the hunt for more information of the Hungarian Gold Train.
But wait. There is much more to this novel than the story of the train. It’s the story of people who have survived great loss. It makes you want to look back at your own family and see what is ripe for discovery. This complex novel has so much richness to it. There is even a nod to feminism.
Ayelet Waldman has now entered the hall of great World War Two novelists. I salute her.
Thanks go out to my friends at Alfred A. Knopf, for sending me a finished hardcover of LOVE & TREASURE.