Greta Goldbaum has more wealth than most of us can possibly imagine. Her family’s extraordinary wealth spans continents as World War I churns in the background.
Despite her life of privilege, Greta and her Jewish family are never afforded the trust that should come with the success they have built. That dichotomy is the basis of House of Gold, a fictional tale that follows the successes and trials of the Goldbaum family.
“I was really fascinated by the idea of writing about a family that was both immeasurably wealthy and yet despite being so close to the wheels of power not quite being trusted because of their Jewishness,” said author Natasha Solomons. “Despite all their wealth and power there’s something about them that makes them vulnerable and they are very aware of that vulnerability.”
House of Gold is British author Solomon’s fifth novel. Each book stands alone and is told as loose historical fiction. Solomon’s extensive research of the miniscule details of daily life before and during World War I helps her to weave a sweeping and beautifully told narrative.
In her tale, Greta is a modern woman who is constricted by tradition and even her own corseted clothing. Greta, Solomons said, is a woman living in the wrong time.
“On one hand she is trying to do her duty by her family but she is yearning for something else. There is a sense of that modern woman and rebel stuck in the wrong time and we can identify with her,” Solomons said. “I think gosh, yes, if I lived then that would be me. She is quite easy to emphasize with. She stands up for other women as well, and compared to men she has little power, but the power she does have she has learned to use well.”
Solomons was inspired to create the story of the Goldbaums by a nugget of her own family history. In her childhood home hung a portrait of a German ancestor, a serious man in a black skullcap. The man had been a tutor and neighbors to the Rothschilds an ambitious Jewish family that amassed enormous wealth and influence as an international banking dynasty.
From there she weaved a sweeping, poignant, heartbreaking tale of love, duty and learning that the ravages of war will shatter and destroy without pausing to recognize society’s divisions.
The interwoven tales of Greta’s relationship with her family, the husband she was betrothed to and the less fortunate women she fights to serve create a tapestry and texture that draws readers in. Solomon said she hopes her story will urge readers to sit, away from the television, and dive into the world she created.
“There are so many rivals for readers’ attention,” she said. “I think we are all busy, we are all tired and at the end of the evening after a long day I want you to choose my book for an hour. That is the biggest gift a reader can give you is their time.”