Monday, June 21, 2010

Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English

Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons
Little, Brown & Company, June 21, 2010
Advanced Reading Copy, 357 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9780316077583

Publisher Comments:
At the outset of World War II, Jack Rosenblum, his wife Sadie, and their baby daughter escape Berlin, bound for London. They are greeted with a pamphlet instructing immigrants how to act like the English. Jack acquires Saville Row suits and a Jaguar. He buys his marmalade from Fortnum & Mason and learns to list the entire British monarchy back to 913 A.D. He never speaks German, apart from the occasional curse. But the one key item that would make him feel fully British -membership in a golf club-remains elusive. In post-war England, no golf club will admit a Rosenblum. Jack hatches a wild idea: he'll build his own.
It's an obsession Sadie does not share, particularly when Jack relocates them to a thatched roof cottage in Dorset to embark on his project. She doesn't want to forget who they are or where they come from.

My Thoughts:

Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons was originally released by Sceptre on April 2010 in the UK as Mr Rosenblum’s List or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman. Just released today in the USA, personally, I have to tell you that I like the UK title much better. It suits the story because Jack's list is an important element to the story. (I also must say that the UK got a better cover too.) The novel was apparently inspired by the experiences of Solomon's grandparents.

The novel starts slow and if I didn't feel a compulsion to fulfill my duties and read the ARC, I might have set this one aside based on the beginning. While I ended up enjoying the story, Jack's sheer determination to build a golf course (after starting a successful carpet manufacturing business) no matter what, was getting on my nerves a wee bit. I really wasn't feeling any great connection with him and, quite frankly, he annoyed me at times. The character I really wanted to get to know better was Sadie. Solomons would share some interesting tidbit that gave us insight into Sadie's character and then we'd be back to the golf course. The story seemed to stall in places, so the pace was uneven. I also felt while reading this that I've read it before - it's basically a re-adaptation of a well-traveled story. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, because in the end, I did. It has a winsome, charming sort of familiarity, but there is something that kept me from totally loving it. There's a lightness, a lack of depth, and some inconsistencies that held me back.

Solomons is a screenwriter and I can't help but wonder if her experience in that area had too great an influence on the way she wrote the story. Writing for a movie is very different from writing a novel. In the end, Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English might make a better movie than novel. If I was still giving stars, I'd probably go three and a half, but not four. I'm planning to pass my ARC along to someone who might enjoy it more than I did. Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English is a light read, and could be a good summer vacation book.

Thanks to Hatchette for providing me with this Advanced Reading Copy.

No quotes


Anonymous said...

I haven't heard of this one, but it sounds interesting despite the flaws you mentioned.

I hope it's okay to link to your review on the WWII book reviews page on War Through the Generations.

Lori L said...

Sure, Anna, link away! I think this book is going to have a greater appeal to many other readers because it is a rather sweet story. Jack has a rather buoyant optimism, even when facing some of the darker themes, like prejudice.

Jenny said...

I just finished this... working on the review now and I completely agree about the being a screenwriter affecting how she wrote this book. I was wondering the same thing. Though, the writing was good, but it just didn't hold my attention very well.

Lori L said...

Jenny, after reading Edith's War right after Mr. Rosenblum, I can confirm that part of what bothered me really was the light tone and the lack of depth. With all the focus on building the golf course, there was a real dearth of character development.

jcd1961 said...

I picked this up while in Germany - loved it- light, funny and sweet- totally unrealistic, just what I needed. I think it would make a good movie- is there a plan for that?

Lori L said...

I don't know if there are plans for a movie, but there could be since Solomons is a screenwriter. Actually it might make a good movie.