Tag Archives: Natasha Solomons

Where Do We Read?

As you may know I am away on a reading retreat this weekend and I am hoping I will be back with some pictures of the stunning reading views I have encountered, as well as some of the fun and frolics. Some people might think that you don’t need a nice view to read, after all aren’t we all just staring at the page. I myself think that environment is important when you are reading. For example I find it really hard to read anywhere where people are talking, in London I am fortunate as very few people like to talk to each other on the underground during commuting hours. I thought I would start a mini project which I am hoping you will all get involved with both in words and in images, read on and I will explain…

A few weeks ago (which shows you how long I have been plotting a post like this) I decided that I would take pictures of some of the places I read during a fortnight, or if I happened to end up reading anywhere special. I was surprised in how many places I stopped and read, especially as I didn’t record all of them, when I looked back at them all. Here are the results…

Anita Brookner in Somerset House…

Neil Bartlett on a bench in London’s east end…

Evelyn Waugh on my knees (yes those are my pyjama patterns) in bed or on the sofa…

Horace Walpole in the bath…

Natasha Solomon’s in St James Park (my favourite park in London)…

Sophie Hannah on the tube…

It’s quite a mixed bag isn’t it? So I thought I would ask if you guys would do a couple of things for me. The first of which is to answer three quick questions for me;

  1. Where is your favourite place to read?
  2. Where can you simply not read for love nor money?
  3. What’s the strangest place you have read?

The next thing I wondered relates to the last question a little. I wondered if you had any pictures of a book you have been reading in a really bizarre place and if you would like to share them? Or do you have a picture of the environment of your favourite reading spot? If so, how about sending me a picture or two. I thought it would be interesting to see the results either in a post at a later date, on a separate page, or in my bookish bits each week? Might give us more of an idea where we all read and get to know each other better? What do you say?

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Mr Rosenblum’s List – Natasha Solomons

I had been meaning to read ‘Mr Rosenblum’s List’ by Natasha Solomons ever since it arrived here at Savidge Reads HQ before Christmas last year, and then made it one of my books to look out for in 2010. Then I decided to wait a while, partly to let myself calm down a little from it and also because it wasn’t coming out until the start of April and if I read it early you might not remember it if it was any good. One of the new little mottos for the new Savidge Reads is that even if I read a new book before its out you wont hear of it until after its out, make sense? Now however it seems that I am a little late to Mr Rosenblum’s party and quite a few lucky blighters have gotten there first, ha…

I know you should never judge a book by its cover but the hardback of Natasha Solomons debut is utterly delightful and it’s a good place to start because so is the book. However ‘Mr Rosenblum’s List’ isn’t quite the ‘utterly charming and very funny’ read that Paul Torday quotes on the cover, it’s actually that and more. Amongst the humour and charm lie some big questions and rather dark, thought provoking undertones running the whole way through the book.

Jack Rosenblum has come, along with his rather reluctant wife Sadie, to live in England in the hope of becoming a truly English Gentleman. Disembarking in Harwich in 1937 he and Sadie have come from Germany where the movement against Jews has already started although the war isn’t due to start for another two years. On arrival they are told that assimilation is the key and that they must do everything they can to become almost invisible and follow the ‘Helpful Information’ leaflet to the latter. Jack has been obsessed with England and the English since first hearing the forecast on the radio and believes that he knows exactly what you must do to become a true Gent and fit in, you must buy marmalade from Fortnum and Masons, no hand gestures must be made to show too much emotion and German simply must not be spoken.

Despite his obsession and his efforts and even starting the most successful carpet firm in the East End he still manages to get arrested and shortly imprisoned for not quite fitting in enough and that’s how he ends up briefly in the countryside which he falls in love with, and comes up with a plan involving that most British of sports… golf (if like me you aren’t a fan of golf don’t let it put you off), only he isn’t bargaining on the countryside being harder to fit in with than London.

I did enjoy Jack’s story a lot however it was actually the story of his wife Sadie that really struck a chord with me and I only wish she had been in it and explored a teeny tiny bit more. She doesn’t love England like her husband, in fact for half the book I wondered if she loved her husband at all and vice versa, and is rather baffled by it all she misses her life before no matter how hard it was. Through her runs a tale of loss and sadness (that happens to spread throughout the village when anyone smells her Baumtorte – it is in fact baking that eventually settles Sadie somewhat into village life with the other women). She is often bemused by her husband and wonders why Jack finds it so desirable to fit in and tries so hard (whilst Jack cannot understand why Sadie won’t try and, for example, get a blue rinse like all the other women) and more importantly seems to forget who he is, his culture and where he comes from. It was that particular strand of the story, to me at least, that was very much the heart of this book and what it was all about and I found that both poignant and emotive.

“Lavendar blinked, forced a tight smile and then relaxed. This was the first time Mrs Rose-in-Bloom had casually mentioned her German past. But, Lavendar supposed, it wasn’t sordid like Mrs Hinton’s younger sister whose ‘past’ had been a long haired sailor from Kentucky. Mrs Rose-in-Bloom’s past wasn’t her fault, and perhaps it was better that she spoke of it from time to time.”

I think it was Sadie’s story and Jack’s humorous try hard nature that set this book well apart from the normal stereotypical tale of strangers moving into and English village and being deemed ‘the outsiders’. It also interested me that I went from not liking Sadie to wanting the whole book to be about her, thats a rare thing with me. I do need to mention  one wonderful character though who also makes the book a  delight and that is Curtis Butterworth and his secret cider recipe. He steals the show on several occasions and is someone I would love to have as a neighbour if I ever end up in a village in the middle of the countryside. All in all this is a delightful debut, I am looking forward to more of Natasha’s work in the future and am hoping she isn’t afraid to delve that little bit deeper into the darker undertones out there because she writes humour and delight just as well as she does sorrow and hardship in the glimpses we see. 8/10

***

Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners:
Notwithstanding – Louis De Bernieres
Henrietta’s War – Joyce Dennys

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Filed under Hodder & Stoughton, Natasha Solomons, Review, Sceptre Publishing

Simon’s Bookish Bits #16

Thank goodness it’s Saturday, and I don’t know about you but here it is glorious sunshine so I won’t do a long post as I am sure, like me, you will want to spend most of your day out in it. It’s been a four day week here in the UK and it’s a weird one because I always feel so much more tired after working four days than if I have worked five, why is that? So on with some bookish odds and sods…

My internet has been evil and sporadic this week, so I have no link of the week, but touch wood after a very nice man came and sorted it yesterday it should be back on… I have so many of your blogs to catch up on, so do bear with me and I have been rather busy again this week, it seems like in the build up to Brazil (which is seven months away) I am going into overdrive in order to make sure the Brazil Fund is brimming and I have enough features up my sleeve to keep the magazine happy while I vanish for three months. Sorry you probably don’t really want to know about that haha. To illustrate how busy I have been, I haven’t even managed to get round to opening some of these…

I know shocking isn’t it! Who knows what treats lie in wait for me inside those parcels? I will report back in due course of course (I am opening them tonight when I get back) and let you know. I did get two little belated birthday parcels this week from The Converted One and they arrived thanks to some of your Victorian/deathly recommendations…

‘Falling Angels’ by Tracey Chevalier (who I am appalled I have never read a book written by before) is pretty much set in Highgate, where I will be most of the day today, and is one I am itching to read. The other ‘The Loved One’ is one many of you recommended by Evelyn Waugh who I have wanted to read much more of too so that’s perfect. The Converted One is narked because it’s not the cover that was ordered, I don’t know if you can send a book back on that basis? I collect the art deco covered one’s as you can see from my Brideshead Revisited thoughts last year back in 2008. Yes thats  yet another author I swore I would read more books by and then didn’t which brings me to my Contemporary vs. Classic post.

Thank you to everyone who left thoughtful, helpful and insightful comments I am mulling them all over (as are a few publishers I believe, it wasn’t an anti publisher post because I know someone’s been saying that) and especially big thanks goes to those of you who too the time to give me your wonderful lists of fabulous reading through the decades. I never expected any of you would and those who did I think deserve a special extra thanks. I will be emailing you all. I did say I would do mine and its hard blinking work and I want to get it spot on so you will be seeing those here next week, aren’t I a tease?

Right, I best be off because a busy Saturday of Highgate and the sunshine awaits, I am also meeting the author Natasha Solomons this afternoon for tea and cakes (I believe she has snuck me a goodie bag from the Sceptre event I couldn’t make yesterday too) in a secret hidden café with the most amazing skyline views, mind you in this weather I feel a quintessential picnic of cakes in a park with lashings of ginger beer might be more appropriate! Have a lovely Saturday, let me know what you’re doing etc, and hopefully see you tomorrow for the latest NTTVBG to discuss ‘Skin Lane’ which I have just completely amazed by. What book has blown you away of late?

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