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Baroness: The Search for Nica the Rebellious Rothschild Hardcover – May 1, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Shake the storied Rothschild family tree and you’re bound to let loose more than a few eccentrics, perhaps none more so than the enigmatic Pannonica Rothschild, who later, through marriage, became Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter. Sifting through the family history for information about her infamous yet elusive great-aunt Nica, the author remained undaunted as she was initially stonewalled by tight-lipped relatives. Digging more aggressively over the course of 25 years, she uncovered the intriguing story of a not-so-classic “poor little rich girl” who fell in love with a musical revolution and ditched her husband and five children for the sake of jazz. Inspired by Thelonious Monk’s seminal recording “’Round Midnight,” she fled her French château in 1951, setting up shop in New York, where she was a fixture on the jazz scene until her death, in 1988. Nicknamed “the Baroness of Jazz,” she befriended and acted as patroness to a score of musical giants, including Monk and Charlie Parker. Rothschild has firmly fleshed out a fascinating footnote to musical history. --Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Review

'Startling ... Hannah Rothschild tells this story with care, balancing narrative tension with a desire to lay out all the facts so readers can make up their own minds ... Wholly gripping' -- Rachel Cooke Observer 'The story that Hannah Rothschild tells in her bright, clear prose is a mixture of things - nearly a biography of Nica, nearly a biography of Thelonious Monk, nearly a sketch of the 1950s New York jazz scene. At one level it's a version of The Hare with Amber Eyes ... [Nica's] story, with all its tall tales and theatrical paraphernalia, is full of interest and warmth ... She was ballsy and kind. There's something to be drawn out here - something given a particular emotional torque by the author's own consciousness of her place in this family - about belonging and escape: about what you can achieve, what you're doomed to endure, and all that jazz' -- Sam Leith Spectator Riveting, touching and insightful Daily Telegraph A well-researched biography. It is one third a history of the Rothschild family, one third a portrait of Nica, and one third a biography of Monk. Nica comes across as a remarkable woman, strong, feisty and rebellious Sunday Times Richly textured, elegantly told and often as surprising as its subject, Hannah Rothschild's biography of her great-aunt is a moving tribute to a fascinating and original woman Country Life
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Virago Press (UK); 1St Edition edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844086038
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844086030
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,039,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. Burns on August 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My interest in music is extremely eclectic and my interest in Thelonius Monk has happened slowly over the last decade. I am ambiguous about labelling Monk a genius but acknowledge his importance in the evolution of music (jazz if you must apply a label)
So the main reason for buying the book was to learn more about Monk and the music that he composed, played and also influenced in the period of the 1940's and 1950's.
What I experienced in the reading was much more than an insight into Monk and that period.
The majority of the book focuses on the period from the mid 19th century to the mid 20th century.
The succinct history of the Rothschild Empire is mixed with the landscape of Europe, United Kingdom, America and other countries impacted by in particular the great wars.
Overlaying this is the evolution of Jazz music set in context of the era and the geography.
It is not limited to but flows from Louis Armstrong through Duke Ellington onto Monk, Miles and Bird.
Yet whilst it is an excellent historical summary on many levels it also is an emotionally engaging read.
I connected with Nica and her family and the musicians - the connections with Nica and the musicicains was more often than not uncomfortable.
The connection however was raw and real.
I came away with an ambivalent feeling about Nica - suspended with feelings of admiration,empathy and frustration but still wanting to know more.
Highly recommended
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By JudyG on August 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book with minimal expectation. I expected a book about a wealthy family who had opportunities that possibly most people don't have. What a surprise this book turned out to be. Even though this book is about Nica, the rebellious Rothschild, the branch of the family discussed in this book were all amazing people who are to be admired, especially Nica, the main protagonist. Sure they had money to follow their dreams and pursuits, which most of us don't have, but they had courage to defy expectations. I found this book beautifully written, I could not put it down. I read it on my kindle, but I found it unsuitable for the kindle because I could not follow the family tree, which I often needed to refer back to.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shimon on January 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the Rothschilds has written a very sensitive and loving, though quite objective, biography of another member of her famous family. It must not be easy to write about someone in your [extended] family when you are a member of the same one.

Nevertheless, Hannah Rothschild has created a story with wide reach into the political and social worlds of the early 20th Century, as well as the idiosyncrasies of some of the Rothschilds.

Pannonica really became "Nica" when jazz tunes were written for her; and she must have reveled in that, since Nica seems to have been a much happier person than Pannonica. The fearlessness, and even recklessness, with which Nica immersed herself into what was really a totally different culture to the one she grew up in, is wonderfully told; a subtle but powerful testament to the draw of timeless musical art. She might have been "the rebellious Rothschild", but she was also an important patron of an original art form.

If you enjoy the book, you should also seek out "Straight, No Chaser", the Monk documentary where she appears, all too briefly.

In the end, Nica was as quirky a character as the writer of the music she loved so much - Thelonious Sphere Monk.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Behan on July 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
For the first 100 pages, I would have ranked this book as three stars, and only then because it was historically interesting. After that, though, Hannah picks up the jazz and the real musical culture that drew Nica in, and I was hooked.

I received this book as a Goodreads First Reads giveaway, and I think I expected it to be more of a work of fiction. I'm not sure I knew what it was when I started.

It is a biography, and it reads as a biography. At times it's a bit tedious, but even though Nica's heart and soul may never be fully known, Hannah shows us a world that is both beautiful and heartbreaking. It's beautifully written, and I've learned so much from this book.

It takes a minute to really get into it, but I would definitely recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Vargo on April 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I met someone new,I was re-introduced to the jazz greats and I will probably follow this thread to find out more.It is a loving and non-
judgemental view of an extraordinary woman...a reat patron of the arts!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Scott Albin on November 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The first half of this book is mainly a history of the Rothschilds and Nica's place within it, and how her early life experiences influenced the direction of her life going forward. Fair-minded and soul searching, the author portrays Nica's mission to support Thelonious Monk and the jazz community overall in eloquent and rational terms. Make sure to see Hannah's documentary film covering the same subject if you haven't already done so.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jaywilton on October 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hopefully,Hannah Rothschild will win an Oscar for the movie that is long overdue;if there's anything to criticize-I'd have liked to see more about Hannah hanging out with about as unique a character as you could find-Pannonica transcends fiction.This is an excellent history of the Rothschild's,as well-and 24 songs about Pannonica just isn't enough.How do you top the relationship she had with Thelonious Monk?You don't.
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