Thursday, February 28, 2019

House of Gold

Title:  House of Gold
Author:  Natasha Solomons
Publication Information:  G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2018. 448 pages.
ISBN:  073521297X / 978-0735212978

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The Goldbaum Palace was made of stone, not gold."

Favorite Quote:  "Her life had been carefully planned on her behalf:  she felt detached from it all, as though she was not so much living as watching herself in a play, one where she already knew the plot and it appalled and bored her. Yet she was starting to realize that she could endure it all so long as she had freedom in this one place. Here, she would obey only herself."

The title House of Gold is a play on words. The "house" is a literal one but also more a symbolic one, standing for the family of... the clan of... the tribe of... the business of... the dynasty of...

The "gold" is literal also for the family is a wealthy and influential one, dealing with actual gold among other things. Of course, the "gold" is also symbolic of the fact that the family name is Goldbaum.

The Goldbaums are an influential Jewish family in Europe. The faith and the location are both important for the time period of the book begins in 1911. The specter of World War I looms. The branches of the Goldbaum family can be found in London, Vienna and spread across Europe. Their business interests are as varied. As political divides arises, so do fractures in the business interests, putting family members on opposite sides.

This story comes from the Goldbaum tradition of only marrying within family - distant cousins but within family. It keeps the money in the family and maintains solidarity across the branches of the clan. Such a marriage brings Greta Goldbaum from Vienna to her groom Albert's home in Hampshire, England. So begins the story of a young woman placed in a marriage to a virtual stranger and in a place that is not home.

The book then follows Greta and Albert and the rest of the Goldbaum clan to and through the tumultuous times of war. The issue arises because the book tries to follow the stories of too many members of this clan. Greta and Albert's marriage and whether or not an arranged marriage blossoms into love. Albert's brother Clement and his troublesome business ventures. Greta's brother Otto in Vienna and his trips to England. The elders of the Goldbaum family and their financial and political ventures. Greta's garden and the role of a female head gardener. The beggar boy Karl and his relationship to the family. The men of the Goldbaum clan going off to war. The impact of war on the home front.

The history in the book is interesting because I have read much more about World War II than the onset of World War I. Some have said that the Goldbaum family and the outlines for this story are based on the Rothschild family, a Jewish family who established a banking business and then established themselves internationally as five brothers settled in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Vienna, and Naples. I do not know if this is actually the case, but once again, historical fiction leads me to an interesting bit of history I did not know.

The story in this book unfortunately gets muddled because there are so many subplots. It is sometimes challenging to know where the main story lies. The cover implies that this is to be Greta's story, but the book does not settle into that. At times, there also seem to be jumps in time and place, leaving me wondering if I missed something. The history was there. The potential for story was set up. Unfortunately for me, it didn't quiet come together.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment