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The Elected Member
Bernice Rubens
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The Elected Member

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  632 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Norman is the clever one of a closely-knit Jewish family in London's East End. Infant prodigy, brilliant barrister, the apple of his parents' eyes — until at 41 he becomes a drug addict, confined to his bedroom, at the mercy of his hallucinations and paranoia.

For Norman, his committal to a mental hospital represents the ultimate act of betrayal. For Rabbi Zweck, Norman's f
Published (first published 1969)
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A beautifully crafted novel.

For those who love the writings and work of R.D. Laing who was a big influence on the author, this is a must read. The tragicomic exposing of the dynamics of family dystopia, the 'patient' elected to be the carrier of all ills, and the craziness of some aspects of the psychiatric system.

This Booker Prize winning novel about a close-knit but dysfunctional Jewish family is set in the East End of London in the 1960s. Norman Zweck, the golden son of a rabbi and his late wife, whose promising career as a barrister has been derailed by drug use and mental illness brought on by his mother's incessant demands and his personal failings, is slowly becoming unhinged — again. He spends his days in his parents' old bedroom, locked away from his father and younger sister, popping amphetamine ...more
Alex Rendall
Norman Zweck sees silverfish everywhere he goes. This would be pretty alarming for anyone (on the odd occasion I see one of those creatures they make my skin crawl) but for Norman, a previously successful barrister and “the clever one” in his family, this has the effect of literally driving him mad.

The silverfish are a side-effect of Norman’s addiction to amphetamines, which have destroyed his career and are now destroying his mind. His father, the elderly Rabbi Zweck, and his sister Bella, deci
Oct 21, 2014 Douglas marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Some things I'm always out on. Brothers and sisters hooking up is one of them. Probably a decent read, but no thanks.
A haunting story about secrets, expectations, betrayal, family, loneliness, and madness. Beautifully, believably crafted.
Kilian Metcalf
This is the second book in my personal determination to read the Booker Prize winners in order.

Somebody has to carry the burdens of a family, right? In this novel, the person elected to that office is the brilliant son of the family, Norman Zweck. The weight of it combined with his addiction to amphetamines drives him mad. Haunted by guilt and the hallucinations of floods of silverfish surrounding him, he cracks under the weight and spends the bulk of the book in an insane asylum. Fortunately,
Unbelievable. This book is amazing on so many levels. The plot follows the demise of the Zweck family, an orthodox Jewish family living in London. Rubens does a fantastic job at painting a rich character sketch of each flawed, but lovable, member of the family. A must read.
Uthpala Dassanayake
The Elected Member is a short and powerful novel. The reader is taken through the depressing and exasperating experience of a Drug addict and his close family members. For an outsider, the behavior of the drug addict and his family may appear as ridiculous, but the author has presented the situation so masterfully, that the reader feels how normal their behavior is once you are in their shoes. Revealing the past incidents which contributed to the situation from time to time, the whole story is n ...more
This 1970 Booker Prize winner is a strange little novel, maybe you have to be Jewish to really engage with it. It tells the story of an immigrant Rabbi who comes to the East End of London, marries his first love and produces a dysfunctional family unit, in which all of its members are restricted and ultimately retarded by the rituals and expectations of Judaism. Norman, the "elected member"of the title is a child prodigy who speaks many languages and becomes a lawyer but is addicted to amphetami ...more
Cristina Escobar
This tragicomic novel follows the Zweck family as they deal with loss, not death per say (although there is that too), but the loss of dreams, ambitions and hope.

The family patriarch Rabbi Zweck immigrates to London, settles in the Jewish neighborhood and has three children. His youngest is excommunicated from the family. His oldest is stuck in perpetual childhood. And the only boy Norman, well Norman is going insane. Addicted to pills and seeing silverfish everywhere, Norman was once the pride
The Elected Member was the second winner of the 1970 Booker Prize, after Something to Answer For by P.H.Newby in 1969. Bernice Rubens (1928-2004) was born in Wales and began writing in her middle thirties when the kids went to school. She was shortlisted again in 1978 for A Five Year Sentence, and her winning book was shortlisted with some august company...

To read the rest of my review visit

Jenny (Reading Envy)
This was an interesting story about a man struggling with mental issues and his family, a Jewish family not quite integrated into American culture. The father speaks with a Yoda-like speech pattern and feels guilty about everything, and there are a lot of conflicts between tradition and trying to make people happy.

Next time I see a silverfish, I might start to worry.
Sally Flint
The second book I've read in the challenge to complete all Man Booker Winners. This was good. It is the story of a Jewish family in East London. The story centres around Norman, who is mentally ill and committed to an asylum. He is addicted to drugs which exacerbates his condition. The possible reasons for his illness are slowly unravelled: a sexual encounter with his sister at 16, who then never accepts womanhood, a domineering mother, weak father, intense friendship who becomes involved with h ...more
Elizabeth Moffat
I can see why this was a booker prize winner I really enjoyed it! So strange with the hallucinations of silverfish, and very sad towards the end.
Orla Hegarty
A very well written tale of a dysfunctional family written long before such tales became fashionable.
1970s Booker winner - the story of a family's golden child and all the havoc that the role brings to each of the family members. I couldn't stop reading it until I turned the final page, so I have to say it is utterly engrossing. The story works on many levels: it's about a family and it's also about guilt and shame. And it's funny - although one wouldn't think so with my description. Special note: the protagonist - the guy who is the golden child - is a lawyer and the details given of his pract ...more
The Elected Member was purchased by me after reading another review on goodreads. I had never heard of the author or the book before. It won the Booker Prize in 1970. I could not find it on amazon so brought the paperback version.

It is one of the best books books I have read this year. It is sad, tragic, and often hilarious Jewish family story set in London in the late 1960s. Norman the son is going mad and it's his family reactions and recollections where the story came alive. What Norman think
Joe Clarke
This is a depressing story of a pretty messed up family, but the writing is so good that it is easy to read past what is actually happening and enjoy crawling through the wreckage.
Norman Zweck is messed up. He was a brilliant lawyer but now he is locked up in the family home where he sees silverfish everywhere. The book starts as his father and sister decide he needs to be committed. And so we get to know the family, including the other, estranged sister and the dead mother.
You will end up being
Courtney H.
The Elected Member was one of the first Bookers I read (the second book to win the prize, but I read a bit out of order in the beginning), and it was interesting to turn to it after some of the others. This is an almost entirely localized story. It hints at a larger history of immigration into England, but that really just serves to flesh out the history of the main cast. It follows a brief period of time in the life of Norman, the golden child of his Jewish immigrant family in England whose pro ...more
Bianca Winter
The Elected Member centres on the Zweck family: a father lives above the shop he keeps with his son and one of his daughters. His son, Norman, is ailing from a drug addiction that brings on vivid hallucinations of silver fish. His daughter, Bella, is still wearing ankle socks despite being decades older than a school girl.

At the beginning of the novel, Bella and her father call out the doctor for the umpteenth time after Norman has another bad bout of hallucination. The doctor convinces them tha
Really enjoyed this book. A quick read, and the troubles of Norman and his family are told in a really eloquent way. Looking forward to discussing it in book club!

Updated: Book Club Discussion

Publisher's description: "Norman is the clever one of a close-knit Jewish family in the East End of London. Infant prodigy; brilliant barrister; the apple of his parent’s eyes … until at forty-one he becomes a drug addict, confined to his bedroom, at the mercy of his hallucinations and paranoia. For Norman,
This is a wonderfully in depth, tragicomedy character study of the devastating consequences of an overbearing mother, the insularly isolation of the immigrant experience, and a stunning indictment of the horrors of amphetamine abuse. The story, published in 1969, struck me as terribly relevant to today's speed addicted populace; from the overuse of ADD drug prescriptions (NY Times, "More Diagnoses of Hyperactivity Causing Concern", April 1, 2013, p. 1), to modern day's dreadful, widespread Cocai ...more
Eight years prior to this novel, Ken Kesey told us the story of Randle Patrick McMurphy through the eyes of the mute native American Chief Bromden in the haunting "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest". Although similar in setting (a psychiatric hospital) this novel is not a "British" version of the American tale, and although sharing a thin theme around authoritative control it looks at the plight of the main protagonist through a number of eyes.

The story opens with Norman Zweck a one time brilliant
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A very interesting portrayal of how mental illness affects and is affected by family. Some lovely moments and language, but I felt the author introduces too many elements and doesn't quite resolve everything. But perhaps that's intentionally to jar the reader.
The Elected member Bernice Rubens . Not what I expected and definitely not my genre but nevertheless engaging.
Matthew Stuart
I was surprised how much I liked this book. A speed freak and his rabbi father written in 1970, has the potential to be dated 'bold and shocking'. Instead it was written with quite a bit of compassion. All of the main characters are portrayed with generosity. The rabbi and his son and daughter have very realistic interactions on the most part.
I particularly liked how the father's sense of guilt and failure even though he is not really sure what he did wrong. And the sons frustration when his m
Intense and beautiful writing, intelligent reading of a very dysfunctional Jewish family from 1960s England.
Donna Pelley
Interesting exploration.
The layers upon layers of family dysfunction in this book create a mystery that is compelling. Dialogue, pitch-perfect.
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Bernice Rubens was born in Cardiff, Wales in July 1928. She began writing at the age of 35, when her children started nursery school. Her second novel, Madame Sousatzka (1962), was filmed by John Schlesinger filmed with Shirley MacLaine in the leading role in 1988. Her fourth novel, The Elected Member, won the 1970 Booker prize. She was shortlisted for the same prize again in 1978 for A Five Year ...more
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