When Jack met Sadie

My grandmother, Margot, playing golf in the '50s

I’m rather busy at the moment writing and reading. Mr S and I have begun the screenplay for ‘Mr R’ and are happily writing away in the summerhouse, watched over by our new neighbours — 2 rams called Sean and Dale. We really enjoy working together and maintain a level of cheerful bickering. I’m also researching for book 2 — which now has a title ‘The Novel in the Viola’. I need to do a little more research and have been reading ‘Brideshead Revisted’ this afternoon in between working on ‘Mr R’. Oh, it’s so wonderful and so sad. I managed to get myself into quite a melancholy mood. Though Mr Waugh really doesn’t like women… so many of his female characters are such despicable harlots.

Working on Mr R and the revisions for ‘The Novel in the Viola’ reminded me of a favourite scene in ‘Mr R’ which didn’t make the cuts. As writers we’re often told to ‘kill our darlings’ and this is a good example of that. It’s a scene which is lovely in itself and shows the moment when Sadie fell in love with Jack. However, it slowed down the pace. Beginnings need to start fast and there was no room for this. I tried to find room later but alas…

It takes place just after Jack has returned from prison after his brief internment.

At first Sadie was overjoyed to have him back, and spent several days fussing and preparing his favourite treats – with a little help from Frieda she even managed to make a sort of mock-chicken soup with real kreplach. She watched him slurp the hot liquid at the kitchen table, bent low over his platter, his glasses misted with steam. She gave a tiny smile – the first time she’d seen Jack, he was spooning soup. Sadie had been fifteen years old with long pig-tails (of which she was very proud) and he was a man of twenty-four with a quick smile and a red bicycle. His parents had died some years before, and people feeling sorry for him (and also hopeful for their single daughters) invited him round for Shabbas. The first thing Sadie noticed about Jack was that he was short – but then so was she and, as she thoughtfully chewed her dumplings, she had wondered what it would be like, to be kissed by a man exactly her height. The second thing she’d noticed was that his eyes were a remarkably bright shade of blue, and that one eye was darker than the other. No one else knew this. It was the kind of information that only mothers or lovers cherished, and his mother was dead. So, this little detail belonged solely to her and somehow, at that moment, Sadie had known that this meant Jack also belonged to her. He did not know it yet, but that did not matter. She’d flicked her pigtails and he’d glanced up to see her gazing at him, and self-consciously wiped a smear of imaginary chicken-schmaltz from his chin.

As the days seeped into weeks and then into months, Sadie grew tired of her husband’s list. Every evening there he was hunched in his chair before the gas fire, the wireless blaring, and Jack scribbling, scribbling in his little book. The only time he faltered, and his pencil drooped was when Mr. Winston Churchill or Mr. John Betjeman came over the airwaves. She couldn’t fathom this obsession to be English while she could feel that other life drifting further away, like steam from a kettle through an open window.

11 Responses to “When Jack met Sadie”

  1. Kath says:

    Thanks for sharing this extract, Natasha.

    I’m afraid I have yet to read your book – it’s making its way up my TBR’s! – but it’s interesting to see what was cut and it’ll be fun to consider the final version, together with what it might have been like had this been included, when I do come to read it.

    Although he reads an abridged version, I can recommend Jeremy Northam’s reading of Brideshead Revisited for CSA Word audio books. He does a terrific job with the characterisation, including the female characters.

  2. Kate says:

    That’s a lovely little extra – thanks for posting. And I’m glad you had such a lovely time in Australia. I’ve never been there – it’s right at the top of my ‘must go to’ list!

  3. Lucy Abelson says:

    Loved Mr Rosenbaum’s list. Quite close to home for me as my father was v. anglised Jew got scholarships to St. Pauls School then Cambridge and was in the Navy – We have Solomons in the Abelson family, but they lived in Devon I believe rather than Dorset. My parents met on the golf course playing mixed 4-somes, but my mother was British – the usual mix of Scottish, Welsh, Irish and dots of French and Dutch thrown in but they espoused v. traditional English standards. Apparently my mother didn’t tell her C of E vicar father she was marrying a Jew until after he’d married them. I think my father must have been bullied as a child because he was always terrified his children would be “cocky Jewish kids”. I didn’t know I had Jewish blood until I was a teenager so all the Jewish traditions described in Mr. R fascinate me, just as going to Israel and having a passover supper with Jewish relatives was an amazing experience.
    You have a talent for making the tiny detail say a lot without it sounding forced. Your characters are vivid. And you also move from scene to narrative with great ease taking the reader through a passage of time without a jolt. However I imagine this must make translation into film difficult.
    The best of luck to you.

  4. Alis Hawkins says:

    I love that detail about his slightly different-coloured eyes – you’re right, just the sort of thing only a mother or a lover would know!

  5. This was a true joy to read. I am going to have to buy another copy of Mr R as sadly my first one got badly smoke-damaged in a kitchen fire that happened a month ago. We are in a new place now – and remembering the scene in Mr R when Sadie found all her treasures spoiled from the leaky roof – made it feel more bearable for me to deal with the aftermath of the fire. Things were spoiled but nothing that was irreplaceable.

    I’m starting to see similarities in my own life with the book as well. My rather ambitious and possibly silly plan to publish 7 poetry books in a year, parallels with the golf-course plan. And now the fire that has seriously derailed almost everything – which if my life were a book would be the challenge towards the end of the second third that needs to be overcome for the final triumph. Not sure the final triumph will actually materialise – but haven’t entirely given up hope yet. Four months to go and five books left – it is still possible if extremely unlikely :)

    But your lovely book about Mr R – is so wonderful – only truly great books can echo, influence, inspire and soothe and challenge, like Mr Rosenblum’s List does.

  6. Natasha Solomons says:

    I hope you enjoy it when you have time to read…

    I’ve been watching the 1980s TV series too — such a brilliant adaptation.

  7. Natasha Solomons says:

    Glad you liked it. And Australia is awesome. I can’t wait to go back!

  8. Natasha Solomons says:

    Thanks so much — it’s such a wonderful feeling when someone enjoys my book. I love that your parents met playing golf!

    Yes, adaptations do have their challenges but that’s what makes it fun. That, and working with Mr S.

  9. Natasha Solomons says:

    Thanks Alis! Inspired my mother who has different coloured eyes — they used to fascinate me when I was a child.

  10. Natasha Solomons says:

    Thanks so much Michele, and I am so sorry about your fire. I hope you are ok. Sending you lots of love and good wishes. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to publish the books — it’s not a race. It’s the words that are important, not the time. xx

  11. Ooooh I loved that extra snippet and actually would have loved that to be in the book, mind you if you had put every single wonderful thing on top of what was already a delight then you would have ended up with a 1000 page debut lol.

    Lovely extract indeed.

    Glad Oz was a delight, I have been lurking and not commenting, do forgive me. Sounds like it was a success, I have always wanted to meet a kangeroo! Most envious.

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