Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English
by Natasha Solomons
This book reminds me quite a bit of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, so if you’re in the mood for something along those lines (a bit of whimsy and sweet, laced with dry British wit and crusty reserve), this will be a good read for you.
The story is about Jack Rosenblum and his wife Sadie, German Jews who escaped from the war as refugees to Britain, and upon arrival were greeted with a pamphlet on how to act more British (primarily so as to not offend any of the natives with one’s foreignness). Mr. Rosenblum takes this pamphlet’s list of recommendations as holy commandments and, with one dictate after another, attempts to assimilate into his new country, chasing that ever elusive mark of “Britishness.” But one trait eludes him: membership in a country club.
As he plots and schemes to cross that last item off his list, his wife Sadie immerses herself in memories of what she has left behind. Instead of joining him in his quixotic whims, she wallows in the tastes, flavors, and memories of the old country, finding his optimism disrespectful of the past and loved ones who have died.
I don’t want to give away too much of what happens, but my favorite part of this book is the irony: what Jack chases compared to what he gets, but doesn’t see. And, having members in my own family who seem hell-bent on focusing on everything negative that has ever happened to them while blind to what they have, I found I really appreciated the dynamic between Jack and Sadie, and especially the insights into Sadie’s character as to why someone might choose pain over happiness, and negativity over optimism. It’s really a beautiful study in human nature and foibles, delivered in a light hearted quest peopled with plenty of other lovable and eccentric characters.
I saw a review that called the pace of the book “lackadaisical”…well, it’s not fast-paced, but neither is it meant to be. It’s still a lovely, light read, perfect for getting lost in, and I certainly sped through it quickly enough. If that sounds like your cup of tea, I’d recommend you try Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English. I liked it so much, I immediately picked up the author’s other book, The House at Tyneford, which started off quite promising, with a nice Downton Abby feel, but I must say I found boring through the second half. So I’ll stick with my Mr. Rosenblum recommendation. The afterword by the author was also an interesting read–and includes a recipe for baumtorte!–so be sure to check that out too!