September 16, 2010
Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English
Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons
2010 Reagan Arthur Book
Finished on 7/26/10
Rating: 2.5/5 (Average)
At the outset of World War II, Jack and Sadie Rosenblum and their baby daughter escape Berlin, bound for London. They are greeted with a pamphlet instructing immigrants how to act like "the English." Jack follows it to the letter—Savile Row suits, the BBC, a Bently—as he and his family settle into a prosperous new life.
But one key item—membership in a golf club—remains elusive. In postwar England, no golf club will admit Jack Rosenblum. He hatches a wild idea: to build his own. As Jack sets off on a quixotic adventure in the Dorset countryside, Sadie quietly mourns the family and life they left behind.
Despite ancient customs, British snobbery, mythical wildlife, and a shrinking bank account, Jack and Sadie persevere in this triumphant, tender, sweetly comic love story about a couple making a new life—and making their wildest dreams come true.
Set during one of my favorite time periods in one of my favorite locations, this novel had my name all over it. And yet (just like La's Orchestra Saves the World), it failed to impress me. I read it on and off during my flights to Virginia Beach, as well as sitting poolside at our hotel, but I never came to care about Jack or Sadie. Jack's proud, yet naive tenacity started to wear on me around the halfway point. Yes, it's a sweet story, but I wanted something a little deeper and not quite so hokey.
He contemplated why he was so drawn to the game of golf—what had compelled him to pack up his life, gather his petulant wife and move to this place? Yes, he wanted to be an Englishman but there had to be something more, a reason for his obsession with the game. Perhaps he liked golf because it had rules—within those little laws lay a logical order. If you played the game and obeyed the rules, then win or lose you were safe. The game contained and held you safely within its structures. For the hours of your round, you could live in this perfected world of flowers and silver pools, and exist according to the boundaries of the game. Golf was a great list of rules, all by itself.
Sadie's mother was a great cook and had ordered her life entirely around meals, keeping time via the contents of her larder. Mutti knew it was tomorrow when the big loaf of bread she baked yesterday was going hard. It was summer when Sadie brought her the first plate of rose petals ready to be iced in order to bejewel her lemon rose cake and autumn was gooseberry fool, or a big round summer pudding, oozing with blackberries, strawberries and the last of the blackcurrants. For Mutti there were no hours of the day, only meals: breakfast, lunch, tea and supper. Things were either before breakfast, after lunch or between tea and supper. A time like three o'clock meant nothing—it was instead the space shortly before apple strudel and freshly boiled peppermint tea. Then there were the recipes themselves that fitted into neat categories: the conventional ones like "dishes so that you can tell it is summer," "meals for times that are cold and wintery," but there were others like "biscuits for when one is sad," or "buns for heartbreak."
Solomons is a screenwriter and the movie rights have already been sold to the makers of Four Weddings and a Funeral. This may be one of those rare cases in which the film is better than the book. Or not.
Final thoughts: Grab a copy at the library.
How's that for brevity? ;)