The Baroness, by Hannah Rothschild
A childhood spent in a big house with its own private zoo sounds thrilling, but for Nica Rothschild it was regimented and dull. Born into the wealthy banking family in 1913, young Nica was forbidden to run, dine with her parents or attend school. She married, but during the second World War sent her children to the US and joined the Free French. After the war she left her marriage and moved to New York, where she devoted her life to the jazz musician Thelonious Monk. Was she the married Monk’s groupie, lover or patron? No one knows for sure.
Nica’s story is written by her niece, who describes her growing fascination with the family eccentric but never edges Nica out. The footnotes in this book are a mess and distract from the writer’s prose. That’s a shame, because her portrait of a woman determined to be her own person is lively and readable.