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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle


Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle
Unabridged, 10 hr. 57 min.
Random House Audio
Barrett Whitener (Narrator)
June 21, 2011

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Purchased from Audible - Personal Collection

"On March 25, 1911, as workers were getting ready to leave for the day, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York's Greenwich Village. Within minutes it spread to consume the building's upper three stories. Firemen who arrived at the scene were unable to rescue those trapped inside: their ladders simply weren't tall enough. People on the street watched in horror as desperate workers jumped to their deaths. It was the worst disaster in New York City history."

The Triangle Fire was the worst work-place disaster in New York City prior to 9/11, however, it is another one of those important events that is little know today, just over 100 years later.  One hundred forty six people, primarily women, died in less than 20 minutes from an inferno that started from a cigarette or match which was carelessly disposed of in the workplace.  This disaster was, unfortunately, the impetus that was needed to propel workplace safety reform.  

This non-fiction treatment by David von Drehle cohesively encapsulates all of the movements, strikes, and other events leading up to and culminating in the Triangle Fire.  Ample time was spent discussing various other work place disasters that came before Triangle and the social movements to attempt to prevent Triangle from happening.  This did tend to get a little long winded at times and I kept hoping that it would get back to the actual event from which the book took it's name.  

One aspect of the book that really helped cement the event in real life was the life stories of many of those who lost their lives in the fire.  Many were young immigrant women new to the country or those who had just found love but hadn't yet left the working life for the home of her husband.  It really made the reader feel for these people as we learned what their fates were.  The author handled their stories with respect and dignity.  

The retelling of the events that unfolded during the fire was page turning reading.  It was shocking, extremely tragic, and at times even heroic.   It was incredible how many things coincided to let this tragic event unfold - ladders from fire engines were not tall enough, no water pressure in the emergency hoses, locked exit doors.  In every disaster there are those everyday heroes that break down a door or drop down a ladder from the neighboring building and save groups of people that would likely have perished otherwise.  Those are the moments that shine through these tragic moments.  



The narration was excellent for all the dramatic moments, but it dragged a little bit during the moments that were purely recounting strikes and protests.  The section covering the actual fire was un-put-downable and engaging.

Author David von Drehle also has written Why They Fought: The Real Reason for the Civil War and Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America's Most Perilous Year

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Way back when I was in my teens I read a book, the title of which is long forgotten, about this tragedy. I remember that it had an impression upon me.

    This one sounds really good.

    1. The event is so sad that it is almost impossible for it to not have made an impression!

  2. I've had this one on my list to read for quite awhile. I'm not sure why I haven't read it yet, because I definitely want to. Thanks for the nudge!

    1. Glad to hear it has been on your radar and that it might move up the list!!

  3. I would like to read this! I am getting more and more into non-fiction. I would read the print version though, a book has to be really engaging for me to hold my listening attention, but I think that I would quite like to just read this :)

    1. I agree - I typically don't love non-fiction on audio book - but if I didn't listen to many of them, I would never get to them!!


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