Thursday 16 December 2021

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ The Women of Rothschild by Natalie Livingstone


John Murray Press
11 November 2021

My thanks to the publishers and Stacey Jaffe at thisisespresso
fro my copy of this book

In The Women of Rothschild, Natalie Livingstone reveals the role of women in shaping the legacy of the famous Rothschild dynasty, synonymous with wealth and power.

From the East End of London to the Eastern seaboard of the United States, from Spitalfields to Scottish castles, from Bletchley Park to Buchenwald, and from the Vatican to Palestine, Natalie Livingstone follows the extraordinary lives of the English branch of the Rothschild women from the dawn of the nineteenth century to the early years of the twenty-first.

As Jews in a Christian society and women in a deeply patriarchal family, they were outsiders. Determined to challenge and subvert expectations, they supported each other, building on the legacies of their mothers and aunts. They became influential hostesses and talented diplomats, choreographing electoral campaigns, advising prime ministers, advocating for social reform, and trading on the stock exchange. Misfits and conformists, conservatives and idealists, performers and introverts, they mixed with Rossini and Mendelssohn, Disraeli, Gladstone and Chaim Weizmann, amphetamine-dealers, temperance campaigners, Queen Victoria, and Albert Einstein. They broke code, played a pioneering role in the environmental movement, scandalised the world of women's tennis by introducing the overarm serve and drag-raced with Miles Davies in Manhattan.

Absorbing and compulsive, The Women of Rothschild gives voice to the complicated, privileged, and gifted women whose vision and tenacity shaped history.

๐Ÿ“– My thoughts..

The only thing I knew about the Rothschild family before starting this comprehensive book was that they were very rich, and that their name derived from the German, Rotes Schild, or Red Shield. From their humble origins in the Judengrasse in Frankfurt we see the start of the family when in 1770 Mayer Amschel Rothschild married Gutle Snapper and by hard work and enterprise the dynasty started to spread beyond the confines of Frankfurt into Europe and beyond. I found the early part of the book fascinating, the history of the period, the way the family accumulated their wealth and the way in which the Rothschild women were, by and large, overshadowed in favour of their more dominant male siblings and cousins.

The book is a comprehensive account of this dynastic family and as such it took me a little while to read it as it's not one to be rushed but rather savoured in small doses. Easy to dip into and out of and nicely divided into four distinct sections I found much to enjoy, especially learning more about some of the individual female members of the Rothschild family, enjoying getting to know more about their strengths and weaknesses. Meticulously researched and with a wide breadth of information I was surprised by just how accessible the book was, never overly complicated with too much historical detail and yet filled with a realistic sense of time passing. It's a beautifully presented book with some colour plates and a comprehensive notes and index section. I especially appreciated the teal colour which highlights the section changes.

The Women of Rothschild gives a strong voice to those women who, it must be said, played a huge role in the financial growth of this iconic family and yet whose important contributions have been seriously overlooked for generations.

About the Author

Natalie Livingstone was born and raised in London. She graduated with a first class degree in history from Christ's College, Cambridge in 1998. She began her career as a feature writer at the Daily Express and now contributes to Tatler, Harper's Bazaar, US Vogue, Elle, The Times and the Mail on Sunday. Natalie lives in London with her husband and two children.

Twitter @NatLivingstone #RothschildWomen

@johnmurrays @stacey_jaffe

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