The Baroness: The Search for Nica, the Rebellious Rothschild

Hannah Rothschild, Author
Hannah Rothschild. Knopf, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-96198-3
Reviewed on: 01/21/2013
Release date: 03/19/2013
This charming biography of the eccentric and romantically adventurous Baroness Panonica de Koenigswarter (1913–1988) is written by her great-niece. Perhaps Rothschild could be accused of obsession, having previously produced both a radio program and a documentary feature film about the baroness, but the reader is immediately engaged. Rothschild vividly describes the world of wealth and privilege in which Panonica (known as Nica) was raised in the early decades of the 20th century, a lonely youngest daughter of a mentally unstable and later suicidal father and a Hungarian beauty of a mother. Rothschild wants to understand how and why Nica (who became a baroness when she married Baron Jules de Koenigswarter) turned her back on her family and her husband and fled deep into the New York jazz scene of the late 1940s. A benefactor to countless musicians, she became the subject of tabloid gossip when Charlie Parker died in her suite at the elite Stamford Hotel. Much of the vitality of her New York life hinges on her long relationship with Thelonious Monk, who wrote songs for her and for whom she once took the fall in a drug bust. Nica is an irresistible combination of British eccentricity and Rothschild sophistication. Readers will enjoy this intimate story of a lifetime of rule breaking, told with remarkable detail, tenderness, and true empathy. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, the Wylie Agency. (Mar.)
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