I am currently reading two novels by women writers. One is entitled Mr. Rosenblum’s list, with a subtitle that is longer than the queues at Heathrow. It is the debut novel of Natasha Solomons. The other is entitled It’s a Man’s World, which also has a subtitle. It is the sixth novel of Polly Courtney, a former investment banker.
Mr Rosenblum’s List is about a Jewish man who arrives in England from Berlin as a refugee, becomes wealthy by hard work and enterprise, and is driven by a desire to assimilate—be like an Englishman. Towards that end he wants to become a member of a golf club. Except that no golf club would have him as a member (because he is Jewish). Undeterred Mr. Rosenblum decides to build his own golf course and buys a cottage and 60 acres of land in rural Dorset.
Mr. Rosenblum’s List has apparently been translated into nine languages. The front page of the paperback edition has a comment from The Times, which described the novel as hilarious. I am almost half-way through the novel, having read 150 of its 310 pages. So far, the novel, while not tedious, is not exactly gripping either. The protagonist Jack is obsessed about building a golf course, helped by a hick from the nearby village. The narrative is not particularly riveting and, while I would like Jack to complete his golf course, the truth is I couldn’t give a toss whether he succeeds or not in his endeavours. He is just not very interesting. I am also marooned in that section of the novel where there is rather a lot about golf courses and golf-related scenes—about as interesting as watching my moustache grow, as I have zero interest in golf. Jack's wife, Sadie, is a bit more interesting, but her character is not developed sufficiently. (The tedium is not relieved by long and repetitive descriptions of Dorset seasons and the flowers in the region.) Which is a pity. The novel started with the quaintly charming list of means and ways to become English. I am tempted to throw in the towel, but will probably persevere, seeing as I have only 150 more pages to go. I don’t know what twist in my character compels me to carry on reading novels I don’t find interesting. Not finishing a novel feels like a personal failure (when it ought to be seen as the failure of the writer to write a novel engaging enough to keep the reader interested). At least I didn’t buy the novel, but borrowed it from the library. The book is a bit like Aero chocolates: there is not much substance in it.
I have written on this blog about Polly Courtney when she publically ditched her publishers (Harper Collins) because they had the cheek to promote It’s A Man’s World as a chick-lit, i.e. something frivolous and racy when what Courtney had attempted to do was write a novel on an important social issue with a sombre message. It interested (and amused) me to see a writer who (from the description provided of said novel seemed like a chick-lit) throwing an apoplectic fit that the publisher promoted it as a chick-lit. It was a bit like a butcher waving a shoulder of lamb and shouting, ‘What? They killed a lamb?’ I had not read It’s A Man’s World at that time (but I didn’t allow such trifles come in the way of banging out a post).
Therefore, when I spotted the novel last week in the library I decided to give it a go.
I have read only the first two chapters of It’s A Man’s World, but already I am finding the novel engaging and reasonably entertaining. It is an easy enough read (partly because so far there are lots of dialogues—which I find easier and quicker to read—rather than descriptions of nature). Also I think I am more keen to find out whether Alexa, the heroine of It’s A Man’s World holds her own as a managing director of a lad’s magazine than whether Jack completes his sodding golf course.
And yes. It is without doubt chick-lit.