Thursday, September 30, 2010

Guest Review: Mr. Rosenblum's List by Natasha Solomons

For those of you who missed the post, we here at the Blue Bookcase are looking to expand our horizons and add a new writer! (Or more than one, perhaps) This concludes our session of "test-runs" for writers who look promising, so let's give a warm welcome to guest reviewer/aspiring BB writer, Lucia! Be sure to comment and tell us what you think! We'll be making our decision about who to keep on as regular writers in the next couple of weeks!

I call myself an in-betweener because there is never a box to check marked 'gap year.' Besides reading, other hobbies include, eating, dance, baking and most recently, learning French. I am currently working as a nanny while waiting to begin a law degree back in the land beneath the southern cross where we eat salty black yeast paste on toast for breakfast. I read at the phenomenal pace of a snail, but somehow go through books more quickly than I can locate storage space and money.

Published: 2010

It's AboutFriendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman. Beginning in London as a German immigrant at the crest of WWII, and eventually resting nestled in the unruly English countryside of Dorset, Mr Jack Rosenblum dedicates his life to becoming the perfect English gentleman. When he and his reluctant wife Sadie are first handed the pamphlet entitledHelpful Information and Guidance for Every Refugee, the flimsy sheaf of paper becomes a recipe for life. Adding to the initial list, Mr Rosenblum observes those whom he perceives to be true Englishmen with frightening sharpness, structuring his life around every point noted. Sadie, however, would rather follow a different recipe, one that forces her to remember who they are and the family they've lost. Forever stamped as foreigners, the Rosenblum's unceasing struggle to blend in sets them on the route of an impossible undertaking.

I Thought: I found this to be a refreshingly different take on a book centred around the explosive impact of the Second World War. Solomon's sparkling novel focuses on the heartbreaking nativity of Mr Rosenblum as he and his family suffocate under the cruelties experienced by the many innocent Germans, attributing to the war and Hitler's Holocaust.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way in which Solomons integrated the highly endearing characters with an intriguing and unpredictable plot. Against the backdrop of vibrant descriptions which paint the Dorsetshire countryside, are littered several quirky characters which the author heavily contrasts with the repulsive behaviour of many others. Similarly, we see distinct contrasts between the characters of Jack and Sadie. His unwavering optimism against her aching sadness, his need to release himself from their past alternative to her panic in remaining bound to it. In this way, Solomons subtly evokes a melancholic atmosphere but through which a funny and touching story emerges, and I really loved this. The author strikes a fine balance between delivering her message and inventing a delightful plot and charming characters, and this was my favourite element of the novel.

In the traditional sense, Solomons keeps the plot rolling. There are rises and falls in suspense which push the boundaries of how believable the text is such that the plot teeters on crashing but catches itself just in time. There were moments when I felt that this nearly ruined the book but I was perhaps getting a little ahead of myself, as Solomon's holds everything together with absolute truth.

Verdict: Make room on the shelf.

Reading Recommendations: Eat it in one gulp.

Warnings: Beware the woolly pigs.

Favourite ExcerptsPlease, be assured sir, that I am five foot three and a half inches of sheer tenacity.

'Baumtorte' – part of a category called 'cakes to help you remember.' Unlike Jack, Sadie preferred German to English because she liked the literal meanings of the words; they were put together like tidy building blocks and felt good in her mouth as she said them. 'Baumtorte' was a good word, meaning tree (Baum) cake (Torte), since it was made of layers like the rings of a tree.