There is an old Chinese proverb:
“May you live in interesting times”
Natasha Solomons’s new book, House of Gold starts a few years before World War I. The Goldbaum family is one of the wealthiest and most powerful Jewish families in Europe. Everyone within the family knows their place and their responsibilities. The men go into the family business. The women marry their cousins and produce the next generation of Goldbaums. The main character in House of Gold is Greta Goldbaum. A member of the Austrian branch of the family, Greta is independent and intelligent. She would love to live by her own rules, but she also knows that she is going to do her duty, one way or another.
She marries Albert, a distant cousin from English branch of the family. Like many arranged marriages, their relationship is slow to take off. When Greta is made mistress of the family garden, she begins to see that things are not so bad. She may even start to get to know her husband in the process.
Then war breaks out. World War I consumes all of the Europe. There is no amount of influence or money that can shield the Goldbaums from the horrors of war. As the war rages on, the family is torn apart and Greta must make a decision. She must choose the family she left in Austria or the new family she has come to love in England.
This book is amazing. While the beginning of the narrative is a little slow, it takes off about a third of the way in and does not let go until the very end. What hooked me most is the main character. While Greta is certainly a woman of her time, she is not one to automatically submit to her husband. She is intelligent, a little defiant when she needs to be, and has a backbone.
Another reviewer compared House of Gold to Downton Abbey. The comparison is spot on and this book is amazing.
I absolutely recommend it.