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Mr Rosenblum's List - or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman by Natasha Solomons

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Mr Rosenblum’s List, or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman by Natasha Solomons

 

The ‘blurb’

LIST ITEM 2. Never speak German on the upper decks of London buses.

 

Jack Rosenblum is five foot three and a half inches of sheer tenacity. He’s writing a list so he can become a Very English Gentleman.

 

LIST ITEM 41. An Englishman buys his marmalade from Fortnum & Mason.

 

It’s 1952, and despite his best efforts, his bid to blend in is fraught with unexpected hurdles – including his wife. Sadie doesn’t want to forget where they came from or the family they’ve lost. And she shows no interest in getting a purple rinse.

 

LIST ITEM 112. An Englishman keeps his head in a crisis.

 

Join Jack as he leads a reluctant Sadie deep into the heart of the English countryside. Here, in the land of woolly pigs, bluebells and jitterbug cider, the embark on an impossible task…

 

This wonderful debut novel is based on the story of the author’s grandparents’ experiences as refugees arriving in England in 1936 and is, as the author tells us in the notes at the end of the book, a work of folktales mingled with family legend.

 

Jack and Sadie and their young daughter Elizabeth arrive from Berlin in 1937 and at the port of Harwich they are handed a pamphlet entitled While you are in England: Helpful Information and Friendly Guidance for Every Refugee..

 

Sadie is uncomfortable in her new country and wishes to hold on to memories of the past, but Jack embraces his new life and wants nothing more to be accepted as an Englishman. He therefore takes this pamphlet and the rules contained therein most seriously and follows them to the letter. He is happy and successful but the one thing he wants seems completely out of reach.

 

Undeterred, he moves with an unimpressed Sadie to the country – a village in the middle of Dorsetshire - where he goes to great lengths to be accepted, but whilst it seems that he is fitting in, he still doesn’t quite belong. But Jack knows what it will take for him to become a ‘native’ and embarks on an enormous project. Will it succeed, and will he find any allies in this most English of places?

 

This book is simply brilliant. It is funny and sad and poignant and through Jack, the reader is taken on a rollercoaster of emotions. It was one of those books that I couldn’t put down but also didn’t want to end. I thought the ending was brilliant but I was sad to say goodbye to Jack et al at the end of it!

 

There is a quote on the front cover that reads Hilarious and touching… Yes, the movie is already on its way – but please read the delightful novel first - I think this is good advice as the book is nearly always better than a movie adaptation. I shall look forward to seeing the film – but I hope they do this excellent book justice!

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Great review, Janet! I bought this at the weekend just because I liked the cover but had no idea whether it was any good, so it's good to know how much you enjoyed it - I can't wait to read it now smile2.gif

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I hope you love it too - it's one of my favourite reads of 2010. I've just looked on Amazon and it has a couple of negative reviews, but on the whole most people seem to have enjoyed it. I thought it was lovely. :)

 

Like you, I was drawn to the gorgeous cover!

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Great review Janet. I've just bought it today on a 3 for 2 at Waterstones along with Barbara Kingsolvers 'The Lacuna' and 'The Shadow of the Wind' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

I'm looking forward to reading it, as long as I engage with the characters I don't mind if it's a bit twee, I can do twee in small doses :)

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Great review Janet. This is definitely going on the wish list. :)

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This sounds really interesting, and would make excellent course material for me before I get to UK :lol: Thanks Janet for the wonderful review :)

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I suppose it is a bit twee, but that's okay, like Poppy, I don't mind that occasionally and it's a lovely story. :)

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The cover and blurb of the book doesn't really give much away, and I was surprised by the length of period that the book covers, and the direction Jack's life took, as I have to admit, I was expecting it to cover just the war years, but it goes beyond that. I did know that the author lives in Dorset, and I was expecting the book to be a much more middle of the road, fish out of water, city man gets an allotment and gradually is accepted by the local villagers, and yet it was nothing like that at all!

 

I found Jack quite a frustrating character at times, but I loved Sadie. Her sadness, and at times anger, was palpable on the page, and her transformation throughout the book felt totally believable.

 

I did have one complaint, but I'm going to have to spoiler it as it gives away a bit too much, so if you haven't read it yet, don't open the spoiler!!!!

 

I thought the resolution of the golf course storyline was a bit far fetched, and I didn't believe in it, compared to the rest of the story. Why did they suddenly get over refusal of the planning department - did Sir Waegbert withdraw his complaint? Why did Bobby Jones not respond to any of the letters? Why did he suddenly decide to claim his friendship? It all seemed too contrived for me.

 

 

However, this was a small complaint really, and only affected one chapter of the book, and I think the final chapter made up for it. A very good book, that I loved reading, and I'm looking forward to Natasha Solomons next book, The Novel in the Viola which is due out at the end of April.

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I have it on my TBR pile :)

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