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on June 20, 2010
Do you remember that magic moment when you first open a book and realized you've met what will be an old friend, one of those books you know you will think about for ages, that you will reread over and over again (if you read like that, which I do), and that stands a chance at actually changing your life? Do you get all tingly inside? Do you walk around with a goofy grin on your face? Do those feelings of new love make you glow?

Yeah, that might be a bit much, but my feelings for Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English are pretty extreme. I have met my favorite book of the year my dears and... well... I'll try to keep the gushing to a minimum.

Jack Rosenblum, his wife Sadie and their daughter Elizabeth have fled Nazi Germany for the safety of England before World War II. Upon their arrival, they are given a pamphlet on how to fit into England's world. Jack is a diminutive man, standing only five feet three and a half inches, but don't let his size fool you. Inside there is the heart of a lion-hearted Englishman and Jack is determined to prove it. So he takes the list, takes it to heart, and begins to live by the list. So when Jack is arrested as a "Class B Enemy Alien" and thrown into prison, Jack's hopes for life in England are almost crushed.

Lucky for Jack, his friend Edgar gets him declared a "Class C Alien," which means he is no threat to the country, and he is released. Jack, feeling more exposed and threatened than ever, begins to add new items to the list. Jack's list grows and grows, until it is well over 100 items of What it Takes to be English. He obtains all these items except one. The last item on his list is membership in an English golf club.

"For Jack membership of a golf course was the rebuilding of Jerusalem, Atlantis and the perfect salt-beef sandwich all at once-but it was proving troublesome."

They wouldn't admit him because he's Jewish and German to boot. So he decides he will build one himself.

"If you couldn't get milk from someone else's cow, you had to get your own. No golf course would admit him and so he must build his own."

So Jack takes Sadie and moves her to Bulbarrow Hill, the new acreage and cottage Jack build for his golf course. A Jewish business man with a thick German accent is an anomaly, to say the least, in their new village and, not surprisingly, the village folk don't know what to think of Jack. Jack is so desperate to change, to fit in, to be safe, that he will move mountains. He wants assimilation, to "seep unnoticed into village life, like rain into the damp earth, and he did not like" the "scrutiny" of the village folk. However, he doesn't let this deter him and he begins to work on his course alone.

Sadie doesn't know what to think of Jack. She is stuck in the past, with the mother, father and beloved brother she had to leave behind in Germany. She cooks, day in and day out, from her Mutti's cookbook. All the recipes she grew up with are her way of remembering; of saying I love you, to those who are dead and gone.

"Once Sadie tried writing down her memories, attempting to preserve them in a nice book to pass on to her daughter but it did not work. The meaning kept disappearing in the spaces between the words, and her story was written was never quite how she remembered it. Now Sadie wondered whether it would be better for her to cook her way home to them. Perhaps she would find them in the smell of slowly simmering cholent or cinnamon rugula."

One cake in particular, a baumtorte, that Sadie bakes, takes time, patience, and love and remembrance for those gone, and was bittersweet to read about.

Sadie has so much patience for her cooking, but very little for Jack. When Jack declares that he will build the course by himself, Sadie retorts:

"My mother warned me that craziness ran in your family. I should have listened but no, I was young and foolish and easily impressed by your red bicycle and your thick hair."

Isn't that great? I hope you can tell how much I adored these two characters. I am absolutely in love with Jack. He reminds me of my grandmother's family; small, short, and furiously stubborn. And Sadie. Oh, how I just want to scoop her up and give her a hug. Knowing that Solomons based these characters on her grandparents makes me adore them all the more. The writing is utterly charming. Solomons does an excellent job of shaping these characters, of presenting their flaws and their strengths, their humor and sadness, their complete will to survive, to thrive! It's simply gorgeous. This book made me laugh, cry, scream in frustration for these two people, and hug myself in rapturous contentment at their successes. I feel as proud of Jack and Sadie as I'm sure Ms. Solomons does for her own grandparents.

I hope I have convinced you that reading Jack and Sadie's story is something you want to do. The book will be out June 21st. Thank you, Reagan Arthur, for sending me this unexpected treasure.

This book is called Mr. Rosenblum's List in England.
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VINE VOICEon June 21, 2010
Jack Rosenblum flees to England from war ravaged Germany taking his wife and daughter with him all the while dreaming of his new life. He knows England is where they can begin again living life without Jewish persecution so off they went. They just need to follow the assimilation into proper English life rule pamphlet they have been given and all will be fine - learn to blend or at least be ignored. His wife, Sadie is less sure but will follow her husband anywhere he thinks best for their family.

Jack holds on to the pamphlet reading it constantly and adding items that he picks up to make sure no one thinks they are not part of English life. He earns an income and then falls into a stroke of good luck and finds himself owning a carpet factory that within ten years is one of the largest in London. Making more than enough money to upgrade their life again Jack starts another phase of following his dreams to be the perfect English gentlemen and in order to accomplish this he needs to play golf.

He buys a set of clubs which leads to a larger purchase of a cottage with enough land to design and build his own golf course where everyone can join regardless of their ethnicity. Again Sadie follows but this dream she is having trouble swallowing and fears the risk is too great for them to handle. Jack says no it will be fine and starts the process of adding items to the list of proper English behavior and construction of his golf course.

The town is less than welcoming but slowly and surely he makes friends and gets some local assistance in the construction. Jack thinks he needs the greatest golfer of his time, Bobby Jones to come and play the inaugural round but letters go unanswered while at the same time jealousy and prejudices start to rear their ugly heads. Jack has tried to assimilate and tried to stay under the radar but there are those that will never accept and never allow that everyone has a right to their dream. Jack keeps chasing his and in the end all his hard work and hope of a better life pale in comparison to knowing he made friends and his family will always be by his side.

This book was a wonderful read and turned into marvelous read when I discovered it was a true story written by a granddaughter about her grandfather. The heart break and triumph of Jack's life comes through so clearly that you ache for things to work out for him and his family and a good storyteller has a gift with the ability to convey these emotions. Ms. Solomons has done an excellent job of showing up what one family's dreams can lead to.

Mary Gramlich is The Reading Reviewer at [...].
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on June 20, 2010
Synopsis: Jack and Sadie Rosenblum and their baby Elizabeth are Jewish German refugees who arrive in England in 1937. Upon their disembarkation they are provided with a pamphlet: 'While you are in England: Helpful Information and Friendly Guidance for every Refugee.' In Jack's quest to become a true English Gentleman he adds items to the list, purchases an old farmhouse far from London and begins to dream of building the best golf course in England. The story follows Jack and Sadie as they each in their own way adjust to leaving one life behind in Germany and try to make a new life in England.

Review: The first thing i loved about this book was the cover. It is a smaller sized, gorgeous hardback with a mat finish and feels like one of those vintage editions of a classic I sometimes pick up at charity shops. The second thing I loved about this book was the dedication: 'On his ninetieth birthday, I promised my grandfather that I would dedicate my first novel to him. So, this is for Mr P.E. Shields O.B.E., 1910-2000.

The next thing I loved about this book didn't come until about page 135 where the character of Curtis begins to be explored - a truly magical elderly man in the village the Rosenblums move to. This is about the time in the story where the characters really get some depth and are revealed with greater description. I read this story for my book club, and if i didn't feel such a pressure to actually read the book we will discuss I probably would've abandoned this early. I'm so glad I didn't and kept persevering with it because it is a lovely story about the courage simple, everyday people need to follow their dreams. But it's also about just how magical and precious people are, how rich their personalities and stories can be, and how tragic a loss it can be if you don't scratch the surface to see what really lies beneath.

At first Mr and Mrs Rosenblum annoyed me - he is so persistent and determined to be positive and upbeat and is possessed by a kind of madness that drives him to obtain his goal of building a golf course in the middle of nowhere on the side of a hill, and she is so determined to be melancholy, to live in the past and not experience any joy in their new life. But as the story goes on I found myself warming to them, realising the horror and tragedy of the war and the sacrifice their family made so they could emigrate to England and survive, and the effect this had on them. This is a story about the courage, tenacity and capacity of people to survive, move on from tragedy and loss and to try to make their way in the world, to achieve their dreams and to leave some mark on the world.

I think anyone who's parents are migrants (or of course are migrants themselves) will find a particular resonance with the story of the Rosenblums. My mother migrated to Australia as a teenager, and my parents in law migrated here as young children, and I've heard the stories and witnessed their continuing efforts to make a place for themselves in a country not of their birth, and of some of the challenges they continue to face as people 'other' than the mainstream. Solomons has really captured the struggles migrants face, their joys and successes and also the personal resources they bring that make them an asset (something which I personally feel is often unrecognised and undervalued) to their new country of choice.

Overall this is a really heartwarming story about good people who have experienced terrible suffering but find the strength and tenacity to push on and live life to the full. It is very funny - is messhuggenah the best word in the world or what?! - filled with delightful characters and a joy to read. I highly recommend it.

Note: I believe this will be released in the US as 'Mr Rosenblum Dreams In English' in June of 2010.
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on January 18, 2011
I was intrigued by this book 1) because I love historical fiction. 2) because my heritage is both German and Welsh. 3) the story of someone trying so hard to be accepted.

I will have to admit, this book started off a little slow for me and I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. But once I got past the half-way mark, I was completely interested and was looking forward to seeing how the story played out. Many times I wanted to strangle Mr Rosenblum and then a few pages later I was feeling sorry for him. He was so focused on becoming an Englishman that he lost sight of other important things in the process. This story plays out in our lives now and I see this with others trying so hard to prove themselves in their careers that they lose sight of their family in the process.

I just adored Mrs Rosenblum (Sadie) and would have loved to be with her in her kitchen baking all day long. She remained faithful to her husband's dream even if she wasn't happy about it and found her way in the new world. And in that process found her way back to her husband. And when he fell, surprisingly, she was the one to pick him back up. I admired her for that and for not carrying the bitterness that I am sure she felt.

This story is a lovely, quiet read, perfect for those cold winter evenings. You don't have to be a lover of golf to enjoy this story, but if you are, it would add another level of appreciation. I give this 3 out 5 stars.
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Our book club discussed this book as well. Everybody pretty much felt the same way about it as I did. They said it took until Sadie had her incident at the pond before they got really into the story. Many of them were frustrated with Mr. Rosenblum but could understand his desire to feel included. We also were intrigued with the baking of the baumtorte. The relationship between Sadie and Jack was also a point of discussion and how it resembled many of today's relationships.
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on March 2, 2012
I first came upon Natasha Solomons' The House at Tyneford: A Novel & re-immersed myself in that magical Dorset bayside life I'd known during summer holidays, this time as seen through the eyes of a 19 yo Viennese saving her life by learning to be a housemaid... then the title of this author's first effort caught my eye, & it was deja vu all over again ;-}

Perhaps you need to have been a "stranger in a strange land" all your life to "grok" the impact of that title - I was! Then you've got to have fled the land of your birth family B4 the march of people intent on killing off "your kind." I emigrated at 22 to the Land of the Free & Home of the Brave cuz I wanted to live somewhere big enough that folks stopped telling me I wasn't one of 'em nor fit it.

Mr. Rosenblum lands in London from Berlin in the mid-1930s, a young husband w/a wife distraught from leaving her mother, her brother, her home. Back then, of course, there were no such things as grief counselors so Sadie, even though she was among other bereft young mothers, sinks into a fugue that caring for her daughter, already given the very English name: Elizabeth & chatting away in that new language, cannot assuage.

Taking the exhortation of the immigration official to heart Jack, with his smattering of English, his ebullient nature & earnest drive sets out to become a proper Englishman. Sadie has not a word of English & refuses to learn cuz it'll mean her mother, her brother, her childhood, her reality will no longer exist. Little Elizabeth, their only shared hope, purpose & connection, grows up bilingual... & so the years pass & Jack makes a fortune at the carpet factory he bought with his escape money, moving his little family out of cramped displaced Jews' ghettos to where houses have gardens, trees.

Then war is enjoined & he turns his looms over to the War Effort into the care of his foreman cuz anti-German fervor has the British government separating husband from wife & daughter. During Jack's odyssey as a detainee among thousands, he's on a train ride into the southwest where he gets a glimpse of a countryside he never knew existed.

With The War over, Jack is restored to his family & factory & determines that the next step in completing his Englishness is to join a golf club. Naturally, he's rejected, at every one of 'em, so he decides to build his own, from a booklet by Bobby Green, the American world class golfer.

So begins the next transformation of this City Gent: with his peaches'n'cream daughter all ready for college & the princess after whom she's named soon to be crowned, Jack moves Sadie out into deep Dorset where everyone speaks with very thick accents. He then writes to Bobby Green, inviting him to the Coronation Match he's going to put on. While he's never held a golf club, Jack finds he loves writing letters to Bobby, & keeps letting him know the progress & funny stories as the course takes shape.

Sadie sets about reviving the dilapidated cottage beside Jack's fields & is revived by her memories of her grandparents' cottage & her childhood summers spent there long go...B4 loss, sorrow & war. While Jack works the land with the local men who take to calling him Mr. Rose-in-Bloom, she discovers the abandoned garden & vows she'll nurture every weed cuz that's what Nazis called the Jews = weeds to be eradicated.

Then rationing ends so people can put on a splendid spread for the Coronation & Sadie begins lovingly & healingly to make every recipe in her mother's cookbook, thus delighting the village Coronation Celebration Committee women, who murmur that perhaps one day she'll tell them her story.

This is a grand & joyfilled read: breathless & a trifle grammatically insecure as ALL immigrants are when telling their stories in the language of their adopted land, & I loved every single moment, even if I did have to read some sentences a few times until I got 'em!

Amongst the vivid descriptions of a wondrous countryside & some hilarious escapades the locals entice both Jack & Sadie into, are Golden Rule Lessons about Waking Every Day w/a Refreshed Heart, Loyalty, Honesty, Courage, Tolerance & Endurance.
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VINE VOICEon February 12, 2012
I was worried this book was going to go down the common story path of an expat feeling like he doesn't belong, resenting his new neighbors and home, instead this story is about loss, getting on with life, understanding what you're good at in life and making the most of it, and most of all love. It is beautifully written, light, beautiful prose but with deep insight into characters and their motivations.
The Rosenblums escape Nazi Germany and settle in London. Jack wants to fit in, he buys the right suits, drives a Jaguar, and in the meantime builds a big carpet business. The only thing that eludes him as a true englishman, is a membership to a country club. When he is not allowed one, he decides to move the family to the country and build his own. His wife doesn't share in his enthusiasm, she just wants to cook (and cook she does!) and remember her family and her loss. No details are given, but this is WWII and they are Jewish, so we can imagine what end they met. In the course of building his golf course Jack survives all kinds of set backs and creates great new friendships. He uses almost all his money on the project. At one point, after several more disasters and set backs, Jack is made to realize what is really important in life. I will not tell you how, that's the story, but suffice it to say it is beautiful and inspirational.
Wonderfully written, and delightful!
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on September 9, 2011
I love novels set in England, so this book caught my eye at the library. I'm buying it to reread and pass along to friends. The author's descriptions of the Dorset countryside are so vivid. The characters are very enjoyable. I actually hugged this book after reading it - does anyone else do that? I've already preordered Natasha Soloman's next book, which I'm sure is fantastic.
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on September 25, 2011
Mr. Rosenblum is the most endearing character I've met since P.G. Woodhouse's Bertie Wooster.

Unlike Wooster, Rosenblum starts from nothing and works incredibly hard, but his sunny disposition and foibles are similar.

The nature scenes alone are worth the price of this book. Spending time with Mr. and Mrs. Rosenblum is like a walk in the woods.

The pace is spot-on, the surprises keep coming and the ending is magnificent.
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on December 11, 2014
Terriffic reading!! Loved the book...kudos to the author.....brought back lots of memories and nostalgia...after all, I am born and bred in England and so familiar with the very descriptive accounts and country dialogue. Look forward to reading more of her books.
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on July 10, 2012
I adored this evocatively writen novel. There were notes at the end about the author that indicated she was diagnosed with dyslexia at 13...so her understanding of struggling against all odds is from the heart. She wanted to be a writer, but in this novel, her first, the lead character is a determined Jewish immigrant to England who longs to 'belong'. The journey of belonging and finding themselves in a new way is the heart of the story. This tale is at once sad, and at times tragic, but the overall feeling is one of wanting to keep reading to find out what happens to Jack and Sadie. I couldn't put the book down...smile. I'm looking forward to reading this author's next book!
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