Love and Treasure

Music: “Theme of Love and Death” by Joanna Bruzdowicz. Track for the film The Grey Souls by Yves Angelo.

A spellbinding new novel of contraband masterpieces, tragic love, and the unexpected legacies of forgotten crimes, Love and Treasure weaves a tale around the fascinating, true history of the Hungarian Gold Train in the World War II.

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, a tough, smart New York Jew, is the officer 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, and charges her with searching for an unknown woman—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, 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. 

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2014
In the U.S.: KNOPF Doubleday
In the U.K.: Two Roads
352 PAGES

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Praise for “Love and Treasure”

Love and Treasure is something of a treasure trove of a novel. Its beautifully integrated parts fit inside one another like the talismanic pendant/ locket at the heart of several love stories. Where the opening chapters evoke the nightmare of Europe in the aftermath of World War II with the hallucinatory vividness of Anselm Kiefer’s disturbing canvases, the concluding chapters, set decades before, in a more seemingly innocent time in the early 20th century, are a bittersweet evocation, in miniature, of thwarted personal destinies that yet yield to something like cultural triumph. Ayelet Waldman is not afraid to create characters for whom we feel an urgency of emotion, and she does not resolve what is unresolvable in this ambitious, absorbing and poignantly moving work of fiction.”
—Joyce Carol Oates

“One is quickly caught up in Love and Treasure with its shifting tones and voices—at times a document, a thriller, a love story, a search—telescoping time backwards and forwards to vividly depict a story found in the preludes and then the after-effects of the Holocaust. Waldman gives us remarkable characters in a time of complex and surprising politics.”
—Michael Ondaatje

Love and Treasure is like the treasure train it chases: fast-paced, bound by a fierce mission, full of bright secrets and racingly, relentlessly moving.”
—Daniel Handler

“Complex and thoughtful, moving and carefully researched, this is a novel to love and treasure.”
—Philippa Gregory

Reviews of “Love and Treasure”

“Waldman sustains her multiple plot lines with breathless confidence and descriptive panache, fashioning complex personalities caught up in an inexorable series of events.”
-New York Times

“Waldman reaches thoughtfully into an epic sweep of complex issues related to identity, home, dislocation and feminism, and illuminates her ideas through the critical junctures of the journeys of both the pendant and the painting. In the end, as readers, we gain a deeper understanding of what it means to covet and what it means to love.”
-San Francisco Chronicle

“In Waldman’s exceedingly clever treatment, this piece of jewelry is not intrinsically valuable; it accrues value only as it passes from one unlikely hand to another, demonstrating the curious and tragic ways that history binds us together.”
-Washington Post

“[T]he pendant’s crooked passage across the century serves as a connecting device, holding the book’s elegantly balanced parts together like the wire in a Calder mobile.”
-Wall Street Journal

“This lush, multigenerational tale… traces the path of a single pendant…. Inventively told from multiple perspectives, Waldman’s latest is a seductive reflection on just how complicated the idea of ‘home’ is–and why it is worth more than treasure.”
-Publishers Weekly

“A sensitive and heartbreaking portrayal of love, politics, and family secrets . . . Waldman’s appealing novel recalls the film The Red Violin in its following of this all-important object through various periods in history and through many owners. Fans of historical fiction will love the compelling characters and the leaps backward and forward in time.”
—Mariel Pachucki, Library Journal