House of Gold is a compelling novel about a rich banking family who are pushed to breaking point by the First World War. Greta Goldbaum is part of the Austrian branch of the Goldbaum family, who have banking outposts in the major countries of Europe. She has no choice in her marriage to Albert, her cousin from the English section of the family, despite being defiant and always looking for trouble. She finds herself moving to England, but just as she can grasp herself a little happiness through her loneliness, the war begins and threatens everything.
The novel focuses on both the personal and the larger scale: on Greta’s attempts to reclaim her own life and on the situation for a wealthy Jewish family across Europe on the eve of the First World War. It is this combination that makes the book particularly gripping, as it has a human centre through Greta and also a sense of a wider impact of war, especially in a family that has members of both sides of the conflict. She is a fantastic character and her narrative shows how a woman tied by society, family, and expectation can still fight and still not always understand other women’s struggles.
House of Gold was far more of a riveting read than expected: it has varied and interested characters and a sense of real human emotion, all whilst highlighting different kinds of privilege and prejudice. Even if the war setting isn’t necessarily appealing, it is worth giving this novel a chance.