Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Elected Member” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
The Elected Member
 
by
Bernice Rubens
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Elected Member

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  798 Ratings  ·  71 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
...more
Published (first published 1969)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Elected Member, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Elected Member

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Douglas
Some things I'm always out on. Brothers and sisters hooking up is one of them. Probably a decent read, but no thanks.
Darryl
Sep 17, 2010 Darryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kilian Metcalf
Apr 28, 2014 Kilian Metcalf rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
...more
Abailart
Mar 12, 2008 Abailart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

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
...more
Lynda
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
Hugh
Jan 02, 2015 Hugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another of my sporadic attempts to read as many historic Booker Prize winners as possible - this was the second one, and is an entertaining, sympathetic but rather dark study of a close-knit Jewish family struggling with a son's mental health issues and the conflicts between religious traditions and the modern world.
Jessie
Dec 09, 2010 Jessie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A haunting story about secrets, expectations, betrayal, family, loneliness, and madness. Beautifully, believably crafted.
Joe
Jan 05, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker-winners
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
...more
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
Kenneth
Jan 28, 2016 Kenneth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, man-booker
Perhaps one of the most beautifully written, thematically profound novels I've ever read.

It addresses so much, from insanity to faith to family pain and betrayal. The language is majestic, with phrases like "they were clad in black and bureaucracy," and "she [a Jewish person] called her ring pogrom money, because it was portable currency." There are even hints of so much more, from a possible gay love story, to the ever-present--yet never referenced--effects of the Holocaust on this Jewish fami
...more
Alex
Dec 24, 2008 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Cheryl
Jan 11, 2014 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Cristina Escobar
Sep 28, 2014 Cristina Escobar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker
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
...more
Joe Clarke
Jan 05, 2014 Joe Clarke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker-winners
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
...more
Sally Flint
Feb 13, 2014 Sally Flint rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Matthew Stuart
Mar 09, 2015 Matthew Stuart rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker
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
...more
Jeannie
Jul 13, 2014 Jeannie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
cameron
Jan 27, 2014 cameron rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Why Oh why Oh why didn't I like this book? Jewish pathos and hair-pulling and humor are usually my favorites. I just didn't feel any compassion or connection connection with anybody nor did I laugh once. Unlike The Finkler Question, which also won a Booker, and was about contemporary Jewish families in England, this didn't have a sense of humanity or heart or hilarity.
However, I DO hate it when everyone else likes a Booker read except me. Sigh. I was in the same position with Wolf Hall.
Lisa
Mar 26, 2010 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c20th, britain, booker
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 http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/200...

Ronnie
Dec 16, 2014 Ronnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
Carolyn
Not an easy read but a good one. The characters have a lot of depth to them, which I enjoyed, but the tragedy of Norman's inability to see the truth of his actions made it emotionally difficult going at times. Great writing though.
Siobhan Markwell
Compassionate and gave a really great insight into the devastation mental illness can wreak on families. It was representative of its time, I guess, in that relations with the mother were implicated for a lot of the hospital inmates!
Orla Hegarty
Nov 21, 2012 Orla Hegarty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker-winner
A very well written tale of a dysfunctional family written long before such tales became fashionable.
Carla
Mar 08, 2015 Carla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The layers upon layers of family dysfunction in this book create a mystery that is compelling. Dialogue, pitch-perfect.
Lynne
Feb 28, 2015 Lynne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Elected member Bernice Rubens . Not what I expected and definitely not my genre but nevertheless engaging.
Sean
Aug 14, 2014 Sean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of potential, but Rubens' lack of control and muddled "plot" made this a lackluster read despite moments of brilliance.
Rick Patterson
Jan 06, 2014 Rick Patterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By turns wrenchingly sad and outrageously funny, this is one of the most British books I've ever read.
That's it. A one-sentence review.
Marsha
Jun 16, 2015 Marsha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intense and beautiful writing, intelligent reading of a very dysfunctional Jewish family from 1960s England.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Something to Answer For
  • Saville
  • Holiday
  • G.
  • The Conservationist
  • The Old Devils
  • Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth, #1)
  • In a Free State
  • Offshore
  • How Late it Was, How Late
  • Staying On
  • The Siege of Krishnapur
  • Heat and Dust
  • Moon Tiger
  • Sacred Hunger
  • The Famished Road
  • Hotel du Lac
  • Last Orders
430857
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
More about Bernice Rubens...

Share This Book



“Something had to happen between them. Two people cannot play a conspiracy for so long, and play it each on his own. There came a moment, when, in the dross of lies, the truth, known to them both, had to be asserted, and for their own sanity, shared.” 0 likes
“He wondered whether in fact, he had always been an outsider in the family, and whether he had so placed himself, or whether his parents and sisters had so elected him.” 0 likes
More quotes…