Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Review of Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons

In Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English, Natasha Solomons shares the story of her grandparents' move to England in the 1930s. It tells about their adjustment to a new life, her grandfather's determination to become a "proper Englishman" and her grandmother's sadness at everything that they left behind.

Sadie couldn't help feeling that the English language was deliberately designed to confound outsiders.  She refused to speak another word to him in that verrdammt tongue for the rest of the afternoon, and since he would not chat in German, they sulked side by side in silence, until Jack went out.  He insisted that they spoke only in English (something in that cursed pamphlet for sure) but speaking with her husband in her disjointed newcomer's tongue transformed him into a stranger.  He looked the same, but the easy intimacies were lost. 
- Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English: A Novel by Natasha Solomons

In 1937, with Germany's antisemitism is on the rise, the Rosenblum decide to relocate to England.  Unable to bring their extended family,  Jack, Sadie and their young daughter arrive in Harwich and disembark from a boat full of refugees.  A member of the German Jewish Aid Committee hands Jack a pamphlet entitled "While you are in England: Helpful Information and Friendly Guidance for every Refugee."

"Please study this with great care."
"And this?  He will truly tell me everything that I must be knowing?"
The man smiled tightly, impatient to be moving down the lines.  "Yes. It tells you everything you need to know about the English."

Jack takes this advice to heart and pores over the list of prescribed behavior.   He switches to speaking only English, buys British, and aspires for and acquires what he believes to be the trappings of a true English gentleman.  The one thing that remains is membership to the right golf club.

Jack tries -- he applies to all the clubs in his vicinity,  reaches out to members, offers to buy his way in.  In the end, when it becomes clear that the regular golf clubs won't admit him.  And since Jack refuses to join a Jewish golf club, Jack Rosenblum makes a life changing decision.  He decides to build his own golf club -- to make the best golf club in South West England.  He sells their house and uproots his wife to Dorset. 

Jack Rosenblum doesn't realize how some of his old habits remain.  He retains the European habit of  tips lavishly (surely, they appreciate it -- for their good service) and is carefully polite.  He doesn't see the contempt that his attempts inspire in the regular English  around him.   But in Dorset, as he approaches this seemingly impossible task of creating a golf course,  his determination, hard work, kindness and good bring him the acceptance that he deserves.

Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English: A Novel is whimsical, beautifully written, funny and poignant at turns.  Natasha Solomon captures the heartache of the diaspora and the yearning for a true home with accuracy, sensitivity and humor.   Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English: A Novel is a book that will resonate with readers of all ages -- it's a book to share with good friends and to revisit over time.

ISBN-10: 0316077585 - Hardcover $23.99
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books (June 21, 2010), 368 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Natasha Solomons is a twenty-nine-year-old screenwriter who lives in Dorset, England. She based this story on the experience of her own grandparents. Learn more about Natasha, check out the reading group guide to Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English, see photos of the grandparents that inspired the book all on her blog at http://natashasolomons.com/

Thank you to Henry,  Reagan Arthur Books and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!


  1. Glad to have you link up! I always enjoy your reviews & blog.


  2. Thanks, Cym! I really enjoy visiting with the other folks during the weekly Book Review Party on your blog!