Natasha Solomons, Mr Rosenblum’s List (2010)

[ The US title is “Mr. Rosenblum dreams in English” and the art cover is a bit different”]

Once again I could turn this into a rant against the marketing department that decided this book’s art cover. What were you thinking people? Have you even tried to read the book?

Of course, it’s set in a romantic Dorset cottage with hills and there are flowers and swallows. I read it too. But isn’t this cover screaming to target the female readership hesitating between cutesy romantic comedies and the now-not-so-hip-anymore chick-lit category?

Come on guys, yes it is dainty and lovely, but it’s speaking about something a lot deeper: integration and rejection for immigrants settling down in their host country. Such a cover isn’t helping the book.

I’d bet that if Mr. Rosenblum hadn’t been a Jewish refugee fleeing Nazi Germany in 1937 but a Mr. Singh or Mr. Hassan or Mr. Alvarez fleeing political unrest and hardships in South Asia, Africa or South America, the art cover would have been bleak and dark.


Mr. Rosenblum is trying his best to fit into wartime and postwar Britain and his method is to follow every item of the list he’s been given upon arrival (a real historical document). He never speaks German, never criticizes his new country and copies all the local customs. He wants to become a perfect middle-class Englishman and dreams of belonging to a golf club (his measure of success), but rules apparently are a bit more complicated (and less straightforward) than his original list. No club will have him. Wherever he turns, he encounters subtle forms of anti-Semitism, discrimination or snobbery. So Mr. Rosenblum decides to build his own club in Dorset, single-handedly, with a passion and dedication close to madness.

In the meantime, Mrs. Rosenblum takes a totally different path from her husband. She clings to the past and refuses to let go of her previous identity. Trying to mimic native English people seems to her like a treason to all her relatives who have disappeared during the Holocaust. She bakes German Baumtorte, layer after layer, as a cake to remember. She finds herself in Dorset nature, but not before she nearly loses herself (her life and sanity) in the process.

At times, “Mr. Rosenblum’s list” lightens up and injects some fantasy, evoking Dorset woolly pigs and friends sharing a flask of alcohol on late nights, but for the rest of the book, don’t be fooled by the nice little cover, Solomons isn’t afraid to tackle deep issues with perfect manners.


2 thoughts on “Natasha Solomons, Mr Rosenblum’s List (2010)

  1. Pingback: Amanda Hodgkinson, 22 Britannia Road (2011) | Smithereens

  2. Pingback: Progress at the Library | Smithereens

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