Thursday, 30 January 2014

Mr Rosenblum's List

 Mr Rosenblum's List Or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman by Natasha Solomons was a wonderful read.

Mr Rosenblum arrives in England with his wife and small daughter in the years leading up to the second world war.  He is German.  Jewish.  And desperate to be English.  With a capital E.  And so when he is handed, on arrival, a pamphlet entitled, While you are in England: Helpful Information and Friendly Guidance for every Refugee, he grasps it, studies it, annotates it and follows it religiously.

He does well in London; his carpet business flourishes.  He wears Saville Row suits (on the list) and drives a Jaguar (on the list).  But membership to an English Golf Club (on the list) is elusive.  He doesn't understand why (they won't let you in with that schnoz says his friend Saul Tankel the jeweller) and is confused by an English friend who doesn't understand what the fuss about golf is anyway.  His wife doesn't understand the fuss about being English and steadfastly refuses to have a purple rinse (yes, on the list) or to forget to grieve her loss.

So he takes his wife and follows his dream into the English countryside.  Follow them... it's a beautiful journey of friendship and belonging.

This story speaks volumes about the meeting of cultures and friendship across cultures.  No matter how hard he tries to act like an Englishman, dress like a Englishman and speak like an Englishman, everybody always knows that he isn't.  Just like no matter how hard I try to act, dress and speak like a ni-Vanuatu, it's always perfectly obvious to everyone that I'm not.   In the end, you can't become what you're not but true friendship reaches across the divide, takes hold of your hand and squeezes your heart.

This book was a delightful surprise in our post-box.  I've had no success finding out who sent it... if it was you... thank-you... it is a treasure.


Little Em said...

Ooh! I read this book just a few months ago and loved it! It goes under two names and I think I like mine better; 'Mr Rosenblum Dreams in English'. Isn't it just delightful. I wish Australia has such things as woolly pigs :)

Rachael said...

Oh, but there are!