House of Gold is a sweeping saga of the Goldbaum family during World War One and the events leading up to the great war.
I am finding myself reading more and more historical fiction often for the actual history that is included in the books. Some of these authors have done extensive research on fashion, important families and, most importantly, the events of the era about which they are writing. Natasha Solomons’ House of Gold is no exception. Based on the Rothschild family, the Goldbaums are one of, if not, the wealthiest families of Europe. They are the bankers, financiers and confidants of the most influential politicians and land owners. Specifically, House of Gold follows the branches of the family in Austria, Germany, France and England just prior to WW1. The story primarily is told by Greta, from Austria, and her brother Otto. Greta is married off to a distant cousin in England. As the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand occurs, the branches of the family are severed with the families in Eastern Europe cut off from those in the west.
In the first portion of the book, Solomons delves deep into the opulence of this wealthy family – their parties, their castles, their travels throughout Europe in their specially designed train car. Once Greta is settled into England, we then extensively learn about the elaborate gardens and greenhouses created by both Greta and her mother in law. These garden descriptions are, in fact, based on the Rothschild’s famous gardens in Europe. Ultimately, however, the latter portion of the book covers the war and the division of the family. I was stunned at the great detail that Solomons took in her description of the war. I could read historical text after text and never quite get the emotional turmoil that she evokes with her recounting of these characters’ fate during the war. This portion of the book, alone, is reason enough to read House of Gold.
Overall, I found House of the Gold to be one of the best books in this genre that I’ve read. The details are well researched, the character development amazing. However, as with all historical texts or fiction, the author will bring with them their own slant to the events that they are telling. This particular book really pushed home the rise of anti-Semitism and, unfortunately, not everything was historically accurate from that perspective. There was a lot of anti-Russian sentiment brought into play that really did not occur in Europe in WWI but was more a part of the post WW1 era and leading up to, of course, WWII. It’s important to remember, always, that Russia was part of the western alliance during both world wars and suffered the greatest casualty count, greater even than that of France. This story would lead you to believe that Russia was the enemy to the west. Not so. I also did not realize before I read the book that it would be intricately tied to the Rothschild family. Call me a crazy American, and I am, but I truly despise that particular family and its global machinations. Every time I would begin to sympathize with one of the characters, I would pull myself back again because it’s really the Rothschilds that are being described and I couldn’t care less what their fate might have been and, in reality, I know the ultimate end result and their role in the world today. IF the book had solely dealt with a fictional affluent family and there had been no reference to the Rothschilds, I would have enjoyed the book to its fullest. Again, it’s the crazy American in me and perhaps other people may not have a problem with this.
If you can read the book as a totally fictional account of a totally fictional family, then it is an amazing read. I did enjoy the book and I do recommend it, I just had to overlook a few elements in order to do so.
My thanks to Natasha Solomons, #Edelweiss and #GPPutnamsSons and #PenguinPublishingGroup for my copy of this fascinating tale.