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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and touching
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'...
Published on 28 July 2011 by covergirl14

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like it but...
I really wanted to like this, but it is one of only a few books that I haven't managed to finish. I got about a quarter of the way through, wasn't really enjoying it, but soldiered on. By the halfway mark still NOTHING was happening so I gave up. The whole story of building the golf course was so tedious, and ultimately I didn't care enough about the main character to...
Published on 19 April 2012 by Donna Clements


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14 of 14 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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3 of 3 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like it but..., 19 April 2012
By 
Donna Clements (evesham, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Mr. Rosenblum's List: Or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman (Paperback)
I really wanted to like this, but it is one of only a few books that I haven't managed to finish. I got about a quarter of the way through, wasn't really enjoying it, but soldiered on. By the halfway mark still NOTHING was happening so I gave up. The whole story of building the golf course was so tedious, and ultimately I didn't care enough about the main character to stick it out to find out if he succeeded or not. His wife had the potential to be much more interesting but was woefully under used in the novel.
From a technical point of view, the author also broke the rules of point of view - how within any scene could we know what was going on in all of the characters heads? This grated enough to be the final nail in the coffin for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rural Dorset, 13 Oct 2012
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I read this book as the location, set in rural Dorset, interested me. The main character was difficult to imagine in that setting but the story got better at the end.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Most enjoyable - very pleasant and likeable., 15 July 2014
This review is from: Mr. Rosenblum's List: Or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman (Paperback)
Thoroughly enjoyable story.
Mr Rosenblum arrives in UK with family as a German Jewish refugee.
Slavishly following a pamphlet he is given on arrival, he sets about integrating in his new country.
Despite setbacks he works hard and is a great character. Relentlessly optimistic and persevering against prejudices and obstacles. He buys his food from Fortnum's and suits from the best tailors - but one aspect of british life - golf - is denied to him. He addresses this, in his own way. Meanwhile his wife Sadie is homesick for the life she left behind and haunted by relatives who were unable to escape. As Mr. Rosenblum builds his golf course Sadie finally finds comfort in her adopted country. Warm likeable characters- this was a delightful yarn..
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4.0 out of 5 stars Touching and moving, 5 Aug 2014
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A very touching and moving book. I am not Jewish or interested in any way in golf but anyone moving to a different society and trying to fit in can relate to it. I was laughing one minute at Mr Rosenblum's daft pomposity in trying so hard to be English, but also crying because his efforts were so poignant and misguided. Unlike other reviewers I loved the descriptions of the countryside - wish I could afford to live in Dorset!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and I rooted for Jack Rosenblum and Sadie ..., 12 July 2014
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Lovely little story. Beautifully written and I rooted for Jack Rosenblum and Sadie throughout. Other commentators will say more about the naive Jack as he struggles with prejudice against his Germanic accent and being a Jew. So why not five stars? Natasha Solomons is so in love with the Dorset landscape, its flora and fauna that in writing a final paeon to nature, she forgets the story ended 30 pages before. I was fine until then but the long drawn out celebration of nature and the wrap up of events became overly sentimental and wearisome. Pity. Still recommend as a delightful read but that ending.......i can imagine what happened: Natasha Solomons didn't want to say goodbye.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, 9 May 2014
This review is from: Mr. Rosenblum's List: Or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman (Paperback)
Enjoyable funny and moving story. Loved Mr.Rose in blooms friends most of all. Especially the cider drinker with the tales
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another review of Mr Rosenblum's list, 4 Feb 2014
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A. Twisleton (Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mr. Rosenblum's List: Or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman (Paperback)
I've already reviewed this book when I last bought it. I bought this copy for my mother because I absolutely loved it and have lent my own copy out several times.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful!, 31 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Mr. Rosenblum's List: Or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman (Paperback)
I loved this book so much that I have given three copies of it as birthday presents. Beautifully and sensitively written, a great storyline that binds together several unlikely plot threads into a magnificent whole. This should be one of those books that EVERYBODY has read.
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