This is the fascinating story of a member of a fascinating family and written by a member of that family. The Baroness is the biography — or search for, as the subtitle says — of Nica, the rebellious Rothschild. By the time Nica was born in England in 1913, the Rothschilds were several generations removed from the Jewish slums of Frankfurt, Germany, and were the leading bankers of Europe.
There had also been time for lots of Rothschilds to marry Rothschilds cousins, which may explain why some of them, including her father, were quite eccentric. Her father cared more for studying and collecting butterflies than banking. Thus, he gave his youngest daughter the unusual name of Pannonica, a rare butterfly. Little Nica, as she was called, grew up in extraordinary privilege. Winston Churchill attended her coming out party and many famous people were guests in the palatial Rothschild home in Hertfordshire.
As a debutante she was taught to fly airplanes and introduced to jazz. She married Baron Jules de Koenigswarter, settled in a chateau in France and had five children. She and her children narrowly escaped to England during World War II.
Nica fought along side her husband with the Free French Army in Africa. She was a decoder, a driver and organized supplies and equipment. She became restless after the war and in the 1950s abandoned her marriage and moved to New York to be with jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. The rest of her life is devoted to helping Monk and other musicians. She was the ultimate groupie.
Hannah Rothschild became curious about her great aunt and spent years talking with family members and others and drawing on archival material to find out who Nica really was. Nica had a passionate, colorful life in the New York jazz scene. Hannah Rothschild writes that Nica was ahead of her time, daring to live as she wanted.
Literary Review writes of the book, “An honest portrait of an extraordinary life. It’s a gripping yarn that more than proves that life is stranger than fiction.”
This book is interesting, easy to read and has 69 photos.
The author has written for British Vanity Fair, Vogue, The Independent and The Spectator.
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