Today we are joined by Hannah Rothschild in rural Buckinghamshire from her 57th day in lockdown. In this week’s Author of the Week segment, we discuss Hannah’s new book ‘The House of Trelawney’. This is a story that takes a comedic look at a Cornish aristocratic family that becomes unravelled in the financial fallout of 2008.
In this chat, we explore the long-standing aristocratic traditions of Britain & the sense that despite the rest of the UK moving on from their past, these families cannot. Hannah also shares some extraordinary tales of her own colourful family history, such as ‘The Queen of Fleas’ & a jazz club frequenting New Yorker, The Baroness.
This is a chat that gives you a glimpse into a different (quite peculiar) world, that you will be itching to revisit in Hannah’s book, ‘The House of Trelawney’.
- The charm of the area of Devon & England’s west country, which led Hannah to write two books based in the area; her new novel ‘The House of Trelawney’ & Hannah’s first novel, ‘The Improbability of Love’.
- On Cornwall: “Cornwall feels like a separate country”, even the Cornish agree with it. From the customs, way of life & ‘other worldly-ness’ of the area.
- Hannah’s interest in the fading aristocratic mores of Britain. With some families staying very much aligned & true to their aristocratic heritage, oblivious to the fact that the rest of Britain does not care much for their regal roots.
- Hannah’s experience visiting some of the huge estates of British aristocrat families, with the towering properties showing a different side when she visited inside the houses. “The money had run out, long before the pretentions had”.
- Hannah’s experience staying in one of these enormous places with a ‘crescendo of rain’ falling into strategically placed buckets & saucers around the room.
- Why Aristocratic families feel as though they need to keep the house – “if you have matter, you do matter”. These places are a “physical embodiment” of wealth & somewhat of an addiction or a part of your character that you use to define you.
- The aristocratic home of ‘Trelawney Castle’ in the book, a 365 bedroom house that houses a dysfunctional family that becomes unravelled in 2008.
- Bringing comedy into a world that takes themselves quite seriously.
- Male characters in the book & their comparisons in society today. In the book all the men are useless, and all the women are brilliant. And this can be echoed by the current COVID-19 crisis, the top 5 countries that have been the most successful in facing the pandemic are all run by women. Why? Because women are pragmatic & swift in making important decisions for the people.
- Hannah’s experience learning banking & finance by self-learning.
- The intersections between aristocracy & banking. How two worlds collide in the books setting of 2008, with most people losing faith in big institutions & instead pivoting on reliance on old establishments.
- Hannah on how she creates the hundreds of characters in ‘The House of Trelawney’, and her ability to perfectly weave them into the broader novel.
- Aunt Tuffy in ‘The House of Trelawney’ is based on Hannah’s own eccentric great Aunt Miriam who was also known as ‘Queen of the Fleas’. Why? Because Aunt Miriam was the world expert on fleas, she used to keep them by her bed in plastic bags & jam jars. She would feed the fleas marijuana, cabbage, tomato plants all to experiment & see the effects it would have on them. She was born in 1911 & never went to school but was completely self-taught all that she knew. Aunt Taffy in the book was a homage to her Great Aunt Miriam.
- Hannah’s extraordinary family history, such as her Great Aunt who was a jazz queen who lived in New York. Known simply as the Baroness & she was friends with some of the great jazz musicians of her time.
- Hannah’s meeting with The Baroness herself which saw her wandering the streets of downtown NY looking for a Bentley. Only to find her exquisite Great Aunt sauntering in a club sipping vodka out of a tea pot.
- ‘The House of Trelawney’s’ trilogy & the difficulty Hannah is finding writing & being productive during lockdown.
- The fears that have come post-lockdown: ‘what will the new normal be?’