By now, we are familiar with literature penned by “2G”-ers, children of the second generation, whose Jewish parents survived Nazi persecution. With time’s passage, it was inevitable that we’d begin to see writings from the next generation: the grandchildren.
British writer Natasha Solomons is one such grandchild. The “About the Author” section at this debut novel’s end reveals that Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English is based “on her own grandparents’ experience.” The novel focuses on Jack (né Jakob) Rosenblum, who emigrates from Germany to England with his wife, Sadie, a nd their baby daughter in the summer of 1937. Upon arrival, Jack receives a “dusky blue pamphlet entitled ‘While you are in England: Helpful Information and Friendly Guidance for Every Refugee’.” If Jack cherishes a Bible, this pamphlet is it: “He obeyed the list with more fervour than the most ardent Bar Mitzvah boy did the laws of Kashrut.…” Over time, he expands and adds to the list based on his own observations.
Sadie Rosenblum does not share her husband’s enthusiasm for throwing off their past (or for his “verdammt list”). She is haunted by the family left behind — and lost — in Germany. This domestic conflict underlies the novel. But the challenge that actively propels the plot is Jack’s quest to build a golf course in Dorset, which results from his being denied golf-club membership — the final list item, “the quintessential characteristic of the true English gentleman.”
This is a stunning book, with setting, scenes, and dialogue all artfully managed (an aside: the cover art is equally lovely, although I can’t help wishing that this American edition had preserved the British title, Mr. Rosenblum’s List: Or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman). It is no surprise to discover that Solomons is a screenwriter. Let us hope that she will soon script this story for film.
Erika Dreifus’s latest book, Birthright: Poems, was published by Kelsay Books in November 2019. Her short-story collection Quiet Americans was named an American Library Association/Sophie Brody Medal Honor Title for outstanding achievement in Jewish literature. An Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Baruch College of The City University of New York, Erika is deeply engaged with and conversant in contemporary literature, publishing, and Jewish writing. She is also the editor and publisher of The Practicing Writer, a free (and popular) e‑newsletter that features opportunities and resources for fictionists, poets, and writers of creative nonfiction.