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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The English through Mr Rosenblum's eyes
Jack and Sadie Rosenblum come to England from Germany in the 1930s. Jack is keen to become an Englishman and takes to heart the information about integrating which is detailed in a pamphlet he receives on landing in this country. As he attempts to put the advice into practice he adds his own notes to the list in the hope if writing a new set of guidelines. He insists his...
Published on 30 Mar. 2010 by Damaskcat

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No my kind of book.
This book was brought to my attention by a relative who is presently reading a copy overseas and considers it a good read,sadly I am not of the same opinion.I am still plodding through it as I can't gather the enthusiasm to pick it up.I am not finding the book entertaining and so far waiting for the humour.As someone residing in Dorset I am finding the Dorset folklore as...
Published on 28 Jun. 2011 by Love to read


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The English through Mr Rosenblum's eyes, 30 Mar. 2010
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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Jack and Sadie Rosenblum come to England from Germany in the 1930s. Jack is keen to become an Englishman and takes to heart the information about integrating which is detailed in a pamphlet he receives on landing in this country. As he attempts to put the advice into practice he adds his own notes to the list in the hope if writing a new set of guidelines. He insists his family speak English at all times and do their best to fit in and fade into the background. But his wife is not happy and misses her family back in Germany.

Jack builds up a successful carpet making business and his cup of happiness would be overflowing if he could only find a golf club which would allow him to be a member. He hasn't ever played golf himself but he knows the true Englishman plays golf and belongs to a golf club. Eventually he decides to build his own golf course and buys a tumbledown house in the wilds of Dorset with 60 acres of land attached. His aim is to have the course finished by the time of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953. In spite of Jack's tenacity and determination he has his work cut out as it is already the middle 1952.

The story of Jack's golf course and the way he is taken to the hearts of the Dorset villagers is well told. There are some marvellous humorous touches and some poignant happenings. Sadie remembers her lost childhood in the ramshackle house and the green countryside and loses herself in baking from her mother's recipe book. The villagers call them Mr and Mrs Rose-in-bloom even when Jack changes their name to Rose. But there are serpents in this Eden and not everything goes smoothly.

I enjoyed this heart-warming story and the way rural England is portrayed from the point of view of an outsider. There are eccentric characters such as the cider drinking Curtis - even he doesn't know how old he is; the truculent farmer Jack Basset and the scheming lord of the manor - Sir William Waegbert. There is also a great deal of kindness mixed in with the initial distrust of `foreigners'. The descriptions of the countryside are evocative and you can almost smell the scents of the greenery. If you want to know what a Dorset woolly-pig is and the recipe for a cider which will help you to see one - together with the recipe for Coronation Chicken - you will enjoy this charming story.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and touching, 28 July 2011
By 
covergirl14 (Nottinghamshire) - See all my reviews
I loved Natasha Solomons' 'Novel in the Viola' - one of the best books I've read for years - and was surprised that this is completely different in tone and direction. It's the unusual, subtly clever story of Jack and Sadie, Jews who move to England from Germany and try VERY hard (or at least, Jack does) to fit in in rural Dorset.
Jack's obsession with 'fitting in' leads him to another compulsion, which drives the novel along - his all-consuming desire to build his own golf course, as he can't get admission into any all-English ones.
Jack's oft-thwarted journey to the final hole is both funny and heart-breaking. I have to say, I have never wanted a character to succeed so badly. I haven't read many novels recently where the main character was a man who isn't typically heroic and doesn't solve exciting crimes, so Jack was a bretah of fresh air. Sadie's loneliness and isolation contrasted perfectly with his never-say-die, optimistic attitude and their middle-aged love story is really sweet (and another breath of fresh air - I'm sick of good-looking professionals in their 20s who pervade everything in book-form at the moment).
You don't have to love golf to enjoy this weird and wonderful novel. You don't have to be Jewish. And you don't have to be typically English. But if you are fed up with the same-old crime, romance and daddy-beat-me-up-when-I-was-little novels, give this a try.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A seriously delightful book, 20 May 2013
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Mr Rosenblum's List: or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman (Paperback)
I thought this an excellent, immensely enjoyable book. It wasn't quite what I expected: from the publisher's description I thought it would be a gentle comedy of the conflict between the manners of the English middle-class in the 1950s and those of German Jewish refugees - something like George Mikes's How To be An Alien in the form of a novel. Well, there is some of that, certainly, but there is far more depth and subtle observation in the book, too.

Natasha Solomons writes in a straightforward, gentle way. The prose is a pleasure throughout and she writes of what she knows: of the place where she grew up and now lives, and of the heritage of her family. All of this makes the book an easy and very enjoyable read; she captures beautifully the Dorset countryside, the turn of the seasons and the people of that part of England. However, within this almost cosy setting and structure, this book has a great deal to say about some very important things - among them the meaning of belonging; the effect of evil forces destroying a person's family and most of what gives them the sense of who they are; the pain of exile and people's responses to it and - not least - the meaning of being English. Solomons also catches, with a lovely lightness of touch, much of the experience of exile - the tiny reminders of the past, the importance of food, the significance of names, the never quite feeling secure, and so on.

Jack and Sadie, refugees from the Nazis, respond quite differently to their situation. Jack, by means of the eponymous list, is determined to forget all about the past, to be relentlessly cheerful and to make himself into what he believes to be an Englishman. Sadie is concerned almost exclusively with her past and her terrible losses, and has no wish to be in the present or to be happy. Solomons doesn't spare them their faults but treats them with great compassion, so that I felt real sympathy for two initially rather unsympathetic characters. We see not only Jack's absurd and infuriating obsessiveness, but also his admirable indomitability and strength, and with Sadie not just her misery and determination to be unhappy but also the deep human importance of remembrance and connection to our roots. We are also reminded that her Dorset labouring men, although they do not join golf clubs or do many of the other things on Jack's list, are Englishmen - and among the best of Englishmen, at that.

All of this is done with a lovely delicate touch. Solomons doesn't labour points or lecture, so one is always carried along with the story. To give two examples: Jack gradually has to accept that in making his golf course he cannot just impose an imported plan but must work with the existing landscape, and this is gently mirrored in (but never explicitly compared with) his gradual abandonment of trying to make himself into something he patently is not. Also, there is a deeply poignant passage in which Sadie bakes many of the wonderful dishes of her childhood for the ladies of the Village Coronation Committee but does not feel confident to stay and eat her own food among them. This is made all the more poignant because Solomons doesn't beat you over the head with it - she describes it beautifully and then just leaves it with you. The book is full of such things - it's exemplary writing, I think.

Sorry to go on - there's a lot more I'd like to say but I'd better stop. This book is an easy and charming read but also has real substance, and it manages to be heart-warming without being fatuously sentimental. My sense of the book is perhaps encapsulated in a brief passage near the end which made me chuckle out loud at its beginning and at the end of which I had to stop reading for a minute or two because tears had dimmed my vision. It's a real gem, in my view, and wholeheartedly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A seriously delightful book, 16 Aug. 2014
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
I thought this an excellent, immensely enjoyable book. It wasn't quite what I expected: from the publisher's description I thought it would be a gentle comedy of the conflict between the manners of the English middle-class in the 1950s and those of German Jewish refugees - something like George Mikes's How To be An Alien in the form of a novel. Well, there is some of that, certainly, but there is far more depth and subtle observation in the book, too.

Natasha Solomons writes in a straightforward, gentle way. The prose is a pleasure throughout and she writes of what she knows: of the place where she grew up and now lives, and of the heritage of her family. All of this makes the book an easy and very enjoyable read; she captures beautifully the Dorset countryside, the turn of the seasons and the people of that part of England. However, within this almost cosy setting and structure, this book has a great deal to say about some very important things - among them the meaning of belonging; the effect of evil forces destroying a person's family and most of what gives them the sense of who they are; the pain of exile and people's responses to it and - not least - the meaning of being English. Solomons also catches, with a lovely lightness of touch, much of the experience of exile - the tiny reminders of the past, the importance of food, the significance of names, the never quite feeling secure, and so on.

Jack and Sadie, refugees from the Nazis, respond quite differently to their situation. Jack, by means of the eponymous list, is determined to forget all about the past, to be relentlessly cheerful and to make himself into what he believes to be an Englishman. Sadie is concerned almost exclusively with her past and her terrible losses, and has no wish to be in the present or to be happy. Solomons doesn't spare them their faults but treats them with great compassion, so that I felt real sympathy for two initially rather unsympathetic characters. We see not only Jack's absurd and infuriating obsessiveness, but also his admirable indomitability and strength, and with Sadie not just her misery and determination to be unhappy but also the deep human importance of remembrance and connection to our roots. We are also reminded that her Dorset labouring men, although they do not join golf clubs or do many of the other things on Jack's list, are Englishmen - and among the best of Englishmen, at that.

All of this is done with a lovely delicate touch. Solomons doesn't labour points or lecture, so one is always carried along with the story. To give two examples: Jack gradually has to accept that in making his golf course he cannot just impose an imported plan but must work with the existing landscape, and this is gently mirrored in (but never explicitly compared with) his gradual abandonment of trying to make himself into something he patently is not. Also, there is a deeply poignant passage in which Sadie bakes many of the wonderful dishes of her childhood for the ladies of the Village Coronation Committee but does not feel confident to stay and eat her own food among them. This is made all the more poignant because Solomons doesn't beat you over the head with it - she describes it beautifully and then just leaves it with you. The book is full of such things - it's exemplary writing, I think.

Sorry to go on - there's a lot more I'd like to say but I'd better stop. This book is an easy and charming read but also has real substance, and it manages to be heart-warming without being fatuously sentimental. My sense of the book is perhaps encapsulated in a brief passage near the end which made me chuckle out loud at its beginning and at the end of which I had to stop reading for a minute or two because tears had dimmed my vision. It's a real gem, in my view, and wholeheartedly recommended.
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A seriously delightful book, 26 May 2010
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I thought this an excellent, immensely enjoyable book. It wasn't quite what I expected: from the publisher's description I thought it would be a gentle comedy of the conflict between the manners of the English middle-class in the 1950s and those of German Jewish refugees - something like George Mikes's How To be An Alien in the form of a novel. Well, there is some of that, certainly, but there is far more depth and subtle observation in the book, too.

Natasha Solomons writes in a straightforward, gentle way. The prose is a pleasure throughout and she writes of what she knows: of the place where she grew up and now lives, and of the heritage of her family. All of this makes the book an easy and very enjoyable read; she captures beautifully the Dorset countryside, the turn of the seasons and the people of that part of England. However, within this almost cosy setting and structure, this book has a great deal to say about some very important things - among them the meaning of belonging; the effect of evil forces destroying a person's family and most of what gives them the sense of who they are; the pain of exile and people's responses to it and - not least - the meaning of being English. Solomons also catches, with a lovely lightness of touch, much of the experience of exile - the tiny reminders of the past, the importance of food, the significance of names, the never quite feeling secure, and so on.

Jack and Sadie, refugees from the Nazis, respond quite differently to their situation. Jack, by means of the eponymous list, is determined to forget all about the past, to be relentlessly cheerful and to make himself into what he believes to be an Englishman. Sadie is concerned almost exclusively with her past and her terrible losses, and has no wish to be in the present or to be happy. Solomons doesn't spare them their faults but treats them with great compassion, so that I felt real sympathy for two initially rather unsympathetic characters. We see not only Jack's absurd and infuriating obsessiveness, but also his admirable indomitability and strength, and with Sadie not just her misery and determination to be unhappy but also the deep human importance of remembrance and connection to our roots. We are also reminded that her Dorset labouring men, although they do not join golf clubs or do many of the other things on Jack's list, are Englishmen - and among the best of Englishmen, at that.

All of this is done with a lovely delicate touch. Solomons doesn't labour points or lecture, so one is always carried along with the story. To give two examples: Jack gradually has to accept that in making his golf course he cannot just impose an imported plan but must work with the existing landscape, and this is gently mirrored in (but never explicitly compared with) his gradual abandonment of trying to make himself into something he patently is not. Also, there is a deeply poignant passage in which Sadie bakes many of the wonderful dishes of her childhood for the ladies of the Village Coronation Committee but does not feel confident to stay and eat her own food among them. This is made all the more poignant because Solomons doesn't beat you over the head with it - she describes it beautifully and then just leaves it with you. The book is full of such things - it's exemplary writing, I think.

Sorry to go on - there's a lot more I'd like to say but I'd better stop. This book is an easy and charming read but also has real substance, and it manages to be heart-warming without being fatuously sentimental. My sense of the book is perhaps encapsulated in a brief passage near the end which made me chuckle out loud at its beginning and at the end of which I had to stop reading for a minute or two because tears had dimmed my vision. It's a real gem, in my view, and wholeheartedly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No my kind of book., 28 Jun. 2011
This book was brought to my attention by a relative who is presently reading a copy overseas and considers it a good read,sadly I am not of the same opinion.I am still plodding through it as I can't gather the enthusiasm to pick it up.I am not finding the book entertaining and so far waiting for the humour.As someone residing in Dorset I am finding the Dorset folklore as alien as the main character,Jack Rosenblum.Whilst aware of the area of Dorset in which it is set, I find it hard to believe in the characters as they are unlike any true Dorset folk I have ever met or been related to.All in all this book is disappointing and I'm not sure whether I shall be finishing it.
Sorry.
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3.0 out of 5 stars one of the stupidest men our reading group has encountered, 8 Mar. 2015
By 
This review is from: Mr Rosenblum's List: or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman (Paperback)
This was a book that inspired one of our readers to research online about British ‘woolly pigs’ in Wiltshire. For a narrative about a wartime refugee, who is struggling with the concept of xenophobia, that is not a classic recommendation.

It was a refreshing synopsis for the story; Mr Jack Rosenblum, a Jewish man who flees his home in wartime Germany and so desperately wants to assimilate into British society that he moves to the middle of nowhere to pursue his plans to build a classic golf course. The list, in the title, is given to refugees as a guide to ‘Englishness’ and it becomes Mr Rosenblum’s bible and mantra despite the misgivings of his long-suffering wife, Sadie and their daughter, Elizabeth.

Jack Rosenblum is, without doubt, one of the stupidest men our reading group has encountered. This is a successful businessman, the founder and owner of a London-based carpet manufacturer who invests in a country cottage without ever seeing it, writes a succession of invitations/letters to someone who never answers them and is regularly made to look foolish by locals who are canny about ways to make this heavily-accented stranger lighten the wad in his wallet.

Initially his one redeeming quality is his stamina, particularly during the early stages of creating the golf course. His tenacity, however, is also undeniable and unfortunately spurred on his obsessional behaviour. We were curious to know where his seemingly endless cash flow originated (although we acknowledged that buying Sadie golf clubs nearly bankrupted him at one stage.)

One of our readers mentioned that on the ‘Kindle’ version the notes at the back of the hard copy are missing and these introduce the author’s own family wartime history (also the source for her recipe information) and the essential point that the list was, in fact, genuine. With or without this knowledge the book, for the majority of our readers, was not that funny, or interesting and was therefore a disappointment.
Selling under a variety of names and in a choice of languages; ‘Mr Rosenblum Dreams in English’ and ‘The Perfect Gentleman’, this is far from unique in its treatment of cultural assimilation and there are other books that might be more useful for asylum seekers.

Our average score was 5.5 out of 10
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5.0 out of 5 stars Feel good story with real heart, 27 Dec. 2013
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Mr Rosenblum's List: or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman (Paperback)
A lovely, warm-hearted feel-good story about a middle-aged Jewish couple who settle in England after fleeing Nazi Germany. Jack Rosenblum is an energetic optimistic whose irrepressible spirit sees him become a successful businessman from nothing, and who is desperate to assimilate into his adopted land and become a 'proper Englishman'. His wife, Sadie, is quieter and sadder, finding it hard to leave behind her roots and mourning the deaths of family and friends who were unable to escape. When Jack is denied entry to a golf club because of his religion, he decides to build his own course and moves to the Dorset countryside to do so. What follows is the classic tale of a single, likeable character struggling against enormous odds on an eccentric, seemingly impossible task, and gradually earning the admiration of the sceptics around him.

Like all effective stories of this kind, there is a good amount of pathos underlying the narrative. It is by no means a saccharine or implausibly happy story. There are some very sad and moving moments and storylines here, and it balances out nicely. At first, I found Jack Rosenblum a rather implausible character, and I was irritated by his naivety which I felt was overdone. But by halfway through he had won me over as effectively as he did his rural neighbours. What at first seemed like foolishness, gradually showed itself to be the same willingness to take risks and determination to follow dreams that had allowed him to succeed as an entrepreneur. In the modern day, he would doubtlessly be appearing on 'Dragon's Den' with some sort of crazy invention that everyone would laugh at until they heard how much money it made.

It would make an excellent film (and I see the author is already working on a screenplay); one of those small-budget British films full of famous old Shakespearean actors making cameo appearances. It has all the right ingredients; plenty of emotion, colourful characters, a well paced plot that provides events throughout, and a satisfying ending that leaves a warm afterglow. It's perhaps a little bit far-fetched at times, but I was too enchanted by it to care. By the second half, it's really gripping, and is one of those 'escapist' books that really transports you away and lets you forget your own life and problems whilst you read. The writing style is very easy to read but by no means simplistic, and it conjures up vivid images without getting bogged down in descriptions.

I liked the way this story got across the sadness of survivors of World War II without making that the focus of the story. In fact, it manages to say a lot about several themes without needing to labour them. Stories about immigrants and their struggles to settle in a new culture are ten-a-penny, but this one stands out from the crowd by taking a different slant. The plot is original, although the basic concept of one-man-against-the-odds is well tried and tested. By getting the plot and pacing right, Solomons is able to expand on her weighty themes whilst keeping readers fully engaged and excited to keep reading, and this also increases the emotional impact of the sadder aspects of the story.

This is a very well balanced novel, and after a slowish start became unputdownable. It would have a wide appeal and could be enjoyed by readers young and old, from every walk of life. It's just a nice, readable, well-written book with lots going on and a lot of heart. I'd highly recommend it to all readers.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely little snapshot of post-war life., 25 Jun. 2010
By 
L. Holdsworth "lisaholdsworth" (Leeds, UK) - See all my reviews
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I very much enjoyed this novel. It wasn't as gimmicky as I feared or the title suggested. Instead, it's a really lovely, detailed story about Jewish refugees making a new life for themselves in post-war Britain. Of course, the bigger message is about intergration and the UK's odd relationship with immigration and immigrants. The characters, however, make this nook a little gem of humour and pathos.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ...Nazis, woolly pigs and jitterbug cider..., 5 April 2010
By 
Mr. H "Mr H" (Embra) - See all my reviews
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OK, I've read this, and I loved it, although I'm a little bit unsure as to why. After all, what was it actually about? Was it about loss, family, alienation, love? Or all of the above.

The story itself is quite slight. Jack Rosenblum and his family have managed to escape from Nazi Germany in 1937. When they arrive, he is given a comprehensive list of what it takes to be English. He takes this to heart, and sets out on his mission to become the perfect English gentleman.

His wife Sadie finds his determination to abandon his past baffling. She wants to hold on to their Jewishness and their Germanness. But Jack, despite establishing a successful business, decides to decamp to the countryside to build a golf course. This comes about due to the casual bigotry of the day which denies him entry to an existing golf club. Something he needs to do in order to be English.

Only after their arrival in the country does the story really take off, as Jack and Sadie slowly find acceptance and a place to call home, even if the locals do find them rather peculiar. Even if they themselves don't realise it. It's a countryside full of giant woolly pigs, jitterbug cider and characters from a country life soon to vanish for ever.

It manages to be funny, poignant and sentimental, despite (or possibly because) of the smallness of the story. A delightful surprise. Although I can't put my finger on why.
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Mr Rosenblum's List: or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman
Mr Rosenblum's List: or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman by Natasha Solomons (Paperback - 8 July 2010)
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