The First Mrs. Rothschild

by Sarah Aharoni

Other authorsYardenne Greenspan (Translator.)
Book, 2019



Call number




Seattle : AmazonCrossing, 2019


In this award-winning historical saga, passionate young lovers in a Jewish ghetto rise to become the foremost financial dynasty in the world. It is the turn of the eighteenth century in Frankfurt, Germany, and young Gutle and Meir Amschel Rothschild struggle to establish themselves in the cramped and restricted Judengasse. But when Meir's talents as a novice banker catch the attention of a German prince, Meir is suddenly afforded entrée into the European world of finance and nobility, and the Rothschilds' lives are changed forever. As proud as Gutle is of her husband's success, she is also cautious--very much aware of the fact that her husband's rise is tied to his patrons' willingness to "see past" his Jewishness. As their family grows, and a dream of fortune comes true, so does their belief that money will ultimately bring the power needed to establish Jewish civil rights. Told through Gutle's intimate journals, revealed across decades--from the French Revolution through personal tragedies and triumphs--The First Mrs. Rothschild paints a rich and intimate tapestry of family drama, world-changing history, and one woman's steadfast strength.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member hemlokgang
This is a piece of historical fiction about the family financial empire of the Rothschilds. It is the story of neverending anti-Semitism, a woman's love of her husband, the building of one of the wealthiest banking families ever. I enjoyed the historical portion of the story, cringed at the
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anti-Semitism, admired the perseverance of the Jews, respected the original values of the family, and was completely lost in the family web of intermarriages by the end of the book. Interesting, but not riveting.
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LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
After reading House of Gold by Natasha Solomons, I was intrigued to learn more about the Rothschild 'dynasty' and thought a fictionalised history would be both instructive and entertaining. Sadly not in this case. I don't know what was lost in translation, but I found Sara Aharoni's biography of
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Gutle Rothschild, told in the form of a personal diary, both clunky and cloying. The first person narrative is told in the effusive faux-formal style of bad historical fiction, full of adjectives and stilted dialogue - and a jarring amount of Americanisms and anachronisms - while the content is Ancestry meets Wikipedia. We are told of every Rothschild hatch, match and dispatch from the time of Gutle and Mayer's wedding in the Jewish ghetto in the first half, while the second is packed with dry reports of business deals and historic events.

"I need five coachmen to steer five different carriages, the fleet of M. A. Rothschild and Sons. I need a family representative in every important hub in Europe. Each one will be run by one of my five sons, and with constant, ongoing collaboration between all hubs, we will become the largest firm in Europe.”

I did get a sense of the raging anti-Semitism faced by the Rothschilds in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe, and some of the characters managed enough nuance for a two-dimensional portrayal - although not Gutle herself, ironically enough - but I learned far more about the traditions of various branches of the family tree from Solomons' novel. I found this account far too dry and repetitive - and long! - to really hold my interest or capture my imagination.
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Original language



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