What a great little book this turned out to be! Don't be put off by the cover (twee) or the comment by Paul Torday saying "charming"....It is a much better book than that. This one we won't judge by the cover.
Sadie and Jakob Rosenblum are refugees arriving in England fleeing from Nazi Germany. They have left their Jewish relatives behind and realize as news of the war unfolds that their families have been murdered in camps and ghettoes.
Upon arrival in England Jakob is handed a pamphlet with the title: While you are in England, Helpful Information. And it prescribes how to become assimilated into English life and accepted as an Englishman. Jakob sets his hear on this and follows the list meticulously, making helpful annotations and additions to the list as the years go on. The last item on the list is to become a member at a golf club. And this he cannot do as he is rejected because he is a Jew.
Parallel to his story we have Sadie's story which is one steeped in sadness and the inability to assimilate because she is a German Jew. She has lost her family and mourns them deeply, she has an accent and a funny turn of phrase given her first language is German and she cannot relate to the Englishwomen she meets. She is beautifully drawn in the narrative and I feelt saddened by her, wanting her to be able to come to some place of peace.
Jakob decides to buy some land and build his own golf course and the main part of the book is the going about of this venture. Sadie is dragged from London to the country and has to reintegrate herself all over again. She moves deeper into depression and grief which push her outside, literally. She discovers the garden surrounding the cottage, learns the seasons, rediscovers her mother's cookbook and puts herself back together through the gentle pace of living in the country.
Jakob creates the first few holes by hand, obsessed with Bobby Jones, the creator of Augusta. The locals object and oppose the golf course and shun Jakob and Sadie because they are Jewish but in the end come to admire the doggedness with which Jakob pursues his dream of becoming the member of a golf club, and the endless baking Sadie undertakes to work out her sorrows.
Yes, there is a happy ending of sorts which I felt the characters richly deserved.
I loved the experience of reading this book, it's not twee or charming or chick lit. It touches on many deep emotions, the plight of refugees and the deepest desire we carry in us of wanting to belong.