Thursday, 19 May 2011

Mr Rosenblum's List by Natasha Solomons

Sadie and Jacob Rosenblum arrive in England in 1937 - Jewish refugees from Berlin. The first thing they are handed is a list, published for the use of refugees to familiarise themself with the new country, and to make integration easier. Mr Rosenblum's first name is quickly changed to Jack, and the original short list is added to regularly by Jack who aspires to become a real "Englishman". He sets up a small carpet factory, and quickly becomes successful, whilst Sadie dreams of those she has left behind in Berlin, and never wishes to become integrated at all. Jack has only one dream left - to join a golf club. This proves difficult because he is Jewish (although every club he applies to leaves this unsaid); so, in the end, with the purchase of a run down cottage and 60 acres in Dorset, he decides that if he can't join, he will build his own. In the course of his endevours he and Sadie become different people, and the Dorset country folk who at first looked at these incomers with the kind of indifference that can only be guessed at, warm to this little man who asks for nothing else except that his golf course be finished by Coronation day - the Coronation of Elizabeth II.

I also like the serendipity of Baumtorte, a cake mentioned many times in the book, where each layer is a memory of someone, (when Sadie offers it to the ladies of the Coronation committee, they taste her sadness) - against the cake in "The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake" (see review below), where a child tastes her mother's sadness for the first time.

I finished with Mr Rosenblum with a tear in my eye - after laughing many times. I am familiar with the part of Dorset described, and could conjure it up in my mind's eye. A glorious short read, a little bit of fantasy and the love of the countryside. All you could ask for a Summer read.