The Women Of Rothschild review: Esuberante, fearless and thrilling

Esuberante, fearless and thrilling: The Women Of Rothschild reveals that the ladies were even more extraordinary than their male counterparts

The Women Of Rothschild

Natalie Livingstone John Murray £25

Valutazione:

The fabulously wealthy Rothschild dynasty has been written about many times, but always with the emphasis on the men.

All those Carls, Lionels and Nathans not only ran the hugely profitable banks that bore their name, but were active behind the scenes as generous philanthropists who gave away millions and as wise counsellors to presidents and prime ministers on the benefits of keeping international peace.

But what of the women? In this scintillating family saga, Natalie Livingstone reveals that the Rothschild ladies were, if anything, even more extraordinary than their fathers, brothers and husbands.

The women of the later Rothschild generations were equally feisty. Miriam (sopra) went on to become a code-breaker at Bletchley and a leading entomologist

The women of the later Rothschild generations were equally feisty. Miriam (sopra) went on to become a code-breaker at Bletchley and a leading entomologist

The banking clan might have been enlightened in some ways, but it was also deeply patriarchal. No female relative was allowed to work for the firm. Instead these spirited and clever women were obliged to forge their own paths to fulfilment.

One of the most intriguing of these was Blanche Fitzroy, who accepted a proposal from the bohemian Scottish soldier turned artist Sir Coutts Lindsay.

Together they set up the avant-garde Grosvenor Gallery in 1870 as an alternative to the stuffier Royal Academy and championed the ‘modern’ art of painters such as Whistler.

Blanche knew her own mind too when it came to marriage. Coutts refused to give up his string of mistresses, so Blanche left, taking her two daughters with her.

Luckily her Rothschild relatives included several leading barristers who managed to protect her vast dowry and even leave the opportunistic Coutts worse off than when he had first set eyes on her and her bank balance.

In other ways, the single life was the making of her. She became an artist in her own right, invited to set up her studio in the home of Edward Burne-Jones, the leading painter of the day. She was also a published poet.

The women of the later Rothschild generations were equally feisty. Miriam, who was born at the beginning of the 20th Century, went on to become a code-breaker at Bletchley and a leading entomologist.

Fearless on matters of morality, bisexual Miriam was happy to give evidence to the Wolfenden Committee, which eventually decriminalised homosexuality in the 1960s.

Then there was Miriam’s sister Nica, who ditched her aristocratic husband to go to live in America, where she became a patroness, and possibly lover, of leading jazz musicians including Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker.

Nica’s Rothschild relatives disinherited ‘Baroness Be-bop’, as she was known, but it bothered her not a jot.

She turned her New York home into a place where musicians could jam and take drugs, before she drove them to their gigs in her battered Bentley.

No amount of larky stories, anche se, can diminish the prejudice that all the Rothschilds faced.

Antisemitism was endemic and frequently turned murderous. Several of the women in this book played a key part in helping families escape from Hitler’s Holocaust. Dopo, some of them contributed to the setting up of Israel.

With consummate skill, Livingstone weaves together all these threads, the dark as well as the light, and the result is both thrilling and moving.

Trust No One: Inside The World Of Deep Fakes

Michael Grothaus Hodder & Stoughton £18.99

Valutazione:

In the halcyon, early days of smartphones, many people used face-swapping apps, largely for amusement.

But the rapid advance of this technology, plus the feeding frenzy that is the internet, has transformed a seemingly harmless activity into something much more sinister, capable of spreading malicious misinformation via the far-reaching tentacles of social media.

Can you ever trust what you see? It is a disturbing thought.

Emma Watson is the most deepfaked celebrity in the world, closely followed by Scarlett Johansson (sopra)

Emma Watson is the most deepfaked celebrity in the world, closely followed by Scarlett Johansson (sopra)

Deepfakes are fake videos, created using the power of artificial intelligence, in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness, fooling people into believing that what they are seeing is authentic.

The technology is cheap, easy to use and access, and it is difficult to bring a lawsuit against a deepfaker.

As with many internet trends, it began with pornography.

Fake celebrity porn has become an entire internet subculture, with Emma Watson (340 existing videos) the most deepfaked celebrity in the world, closely followed by Scarlett Johansson.

If you can make anyone say or do anything anywhere, the potential for political or criminal exploitation is immense.

The ability of deepfake AI to synthesise voice and enable audio impersonation has already been used successfully for financial extortion and blackmail.

Michael Grothaus has written a readable, thought-provoking, if slightly repetitive warning from the internet’s underbelly.

He over-focuses perhaps on the celebrity-porn aspects of deepfaking and deals only fleetingly with the more positive uses of the technology (per esempio, allowing people with eating disorders to view images of themselves in a healthier body), but he interviews some shady characters and raises interesting questions.

He even commissions a deepfake of himself committing a crime, and another in which his father is brought back to life; lui è, not surprisingly, uncomfortable with the results.

Be warned and be afraid.

Simon Humphreys

I commenti sono chiusi.