MR. ROSENBLUM DREAMS IN ENGLISH
Reagan Arthur Books, 2010. 368 pp. $23.99
Review by Erika Dreifus
By now, we are familiar with literature penned by “2G”-ers, children of the second generation, whose Jewish parents survived Nazi persecution. With time’s passage, it was inevitable that we’d begin to see writings from the next generation: the grandchildren.
British writer Natasha Solomons is one such grandchild. The “About the Author” section at this debut novel’s end reveals that Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English is based “on her own grandparents’ experience.” The novel focuses on Jack (né Jakob) Rosenblum, who emigrates from Germany with his wife, Sadie, and their baby daughter in the summer of 1937. Upon arrival, Jack receives a “dusky blue pamphlet entitled While you are in England: Helpful Information and Friendly Guidance for every Refugee.” If Jack cherishes a Bible, this pamphlet is it: “He obeyed the list with more fervour than the most ardent Bar Mitzvah boy did the laws of Kashrut….” Over time, he expands and adds to the list based on his own observations.
Sadie Rosenblum does not share her husband’s enthusiasm for throwing off their past (or for his “verdammt list”). She is haunted by the family left behind—and lost—in Germany. This domestic conflict underlies the novel. But the challenge that actively propels the plot is Jack’s quest to build a golf course in Dorset, which results from his being denied golf-club membership—the final list item, “the quintessential characteristic of the true English gentleman.”
This is a gorgeous book, with setting, scenes, and dialogue all artfully managed (an aside: the cover art is equally lovely, although I can’t help wishing that this American edition had preserved the British title, Mr. Rosenblum’s List: Or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman). It is no surprise to discover that Solomons is a screenwriter. Let us hope that she will soon script this story for film.
(This review was published in Jewish Book World, Winter 5771/2010.)