Strengths: The character of Mr Rosenblum and his wife, Sadie, who deal with problems in completely different ways.
Weaknesses: Excessive description and a lot of golf making this quite boring.
Why I read it: Hype plus a Borders sale.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
If you liked this (or want to try something better in the same vein), try: They’re A Weird Mob by John O’Grady
I had heard so much about this book – all of it good. So when the opportunity came to purchase this at the Borders closing sale, I grabbed it. One thing all those other reviews didn’t tell me though – there is a significant proportion of this book about golf. I’m telling you now so you don’t make the same mistake I did (albeit at 50% off). This is not mentioned anywhere on the blurb on the back of the book!
You might have guessed I don’t care for golf.
Which is a pity as Jack Rosenblum, recent immigrant to England, has decided that golf is one of the true pleasures of the quintessential Englishman along with a number of other items that a ‘true’ English man does – from type of car (Jaguar, Top Gear fans start crying now) to breakfast spread (marmalade). Jack’s determination to fit into his new country is at first charming, then slightly boring. Jack’s mind then turns to the building of the best golf course in Britain and this is where I got a bit distracted and so did the plot. We have meticulous planning of the golf course, the disdain and then gradual acceptance of the villagers, a mysterious tale of a pig, some tragic moments and then happiness. This book could have been really sweet in an old English kind of way had it not focused so much on the damned golf. I don’t know if Bobby Jones is a real golfer, but the parts including him seemed a bit forced, not to mention unbelievable.
The characters – Jack and Sadie are well done. Despite being husband and wide, they are polar opposites when it comes to life in the new country. Sadie wants to hang on to her traditions, while Jack is determined to lose them all (even going so far to change his name to something more English). Their daughter, Elizabeth, remains a mystery though – what was her rationale for wanting to change? The villagers, while occasionally being stereotyped, are ‘good eggs’ and the reader really does feel sadness at some of the events that happen. However, I can’t get over the fact that this book really dragged out for me and perhaps I shouldn’t be blaming it all on the golf – maybe it needed better editing. The descriptions of the English countryside were lovingly rendered though.
I didn’t buy Solomons’ second book, The Novel in the Viola and I think I’ll hold onto my money for now – or wait for a 75% off sale.