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When We Were Bad: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Charlotte Mendelson
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £7.99
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Book Description

'The Rubin family, everybody agrees, seems doomed to happiness' Claudia Rubin is in her heyday. Wife, mother, rabbi and sometime moral voice of the nation, everyone wants to be with her at her older son’s glorious February wedding. Until Leo becomes a bolter and the heyday of the Rubin family begins to unravel . . .

‘As intelligent as it is funny. A beautifully observed literary comedy as well as a painfully accurate description of one big old family mess’ Observer

‘Fast-paced and engaging. Brilliant, touching and true’ Naomi Alderman, Financial Times

‘Absolutely spellbinding, so funny, so moving, so totally believable’ Jacqueline Wilson

‘Intelligent and witty.

The Rubin family may be a singular one but the delights and the difficulties its members have with sex and spirituality, food and domesticity, expectation and achievement, will have a universal appeal’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Funny and emotionally true, this is a comedy with the warmest of hearts and the most deliciously subversive of agendas’ Book of the Month, Marie Claire

When We Were Bad is a warm, poignant and true portrayal of a London family in crisis, in love, in denial and – ultimately – in luck.

Product Description


"[Mendelson] is a keen observer ... she deftly blends humor and pathos in this portrayal of a family in crisis."

Daily Mail

'This is the wickedly funny and poignant story of a Jewish family in crisis, beautifully observed and painfully authentic.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 765 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (30 Sept. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003GK22TI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #20,681 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good quality soap opera with substance ... 11 Aug. 2008
I really love it when I hit upon a book that is light and perfect for a holiday read, without being vacuous or cliched. This is one such book.

The story is set in London and centres around a female Rabbi - Claudia Rubin - who is very well respected and loved in the community. She is there for her congregation when they need her, thoughtful to a fault and always dresses and behaves impeccably. Her family life seems perfect to the outside world and the Rubins are envied far and wide.

But, you never know what's going on behind closed doors and when her son decides to leave his fiance - at the altar - to elope with the wife of a fellow Rabbi, it becomes clear that all is not well with Claudia Rubin's family.

From this point the illusion of happiness that has cloaked her family begins to untangle. The story is amusing and light - it feels like a good quality soap opera with substance! You can't wish for more than that for a holiday read surely?!

Incidentally, as someone who knows little about the Jewish faith, I greatly enjoyed reading about Jewish celebrations and the amazing preparations that go into them ... this was all weaved seamlessly into the story.

Give yourself a treat and read this book!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The final paragraph of When We Were Bad by Charlotte Mendelson finds Claudia Rubin, main protagonist and rabbi, writer, mother extraordinaire sitting down to write her family the 'love letters they deserve'.

This ending could just as easily be a beginning and we wonder whether the Rubins will achieve just that. Will they manage a new dawn with honesty at its core, for honesty is something the Rubins find themselves alarmingly short of. They are, without exception, a conflicted family.

There's Leo the porn buying eldest son who runs off with a rabbi's wife and Frances the dependable one who secretly grapples in search of the love that should come naturally but hasn't, not for son, nor husband and step-daughters. There are the younger siblings who exist in a supported state of perpetual youth and of course their father, Norman, the retiring husband who has done anything but retire, squirrelling himself away instead to write the acclaimed book his wife has been dreaming of for herself.

That Claudia has never before 'dared' to write these letters says something of the paradoxes that define this Jewish clan. They inhabit a world of contradiction where family is everything yet nothing, where siblings and parents frantically call each other for hourly updates yet remain entirely oblivious to what is really going on right under their noses, where the reliable become the unreliable and where the preoccupation with real food and its plentiful abundance underlines the near absence of soul food, of genuine understanding and spiritual nourishment. That the family exists under the watchful gaze of Claudia Rubin, famous for her spiritual nourishment of strangers, is all the more ironic.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book 5 July 2008
I only really review books I enjoy and this one was great. The family complexity and the challenges of a mother forced to relinquish control, as well as the beautiful cultural experience - it is a very well written novel. The author strikes a great balance between creating a profound sense of loss, worry and complex family worries but it is tightly held together with love, and laughter and is very funny in parts. I would recommend you to read this book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disorder Galore! 2 Sept. 2008
Mendelson takes us to a very special wedding on the first page of this witty and socially incendiary novel. The Rubin family have turned out to see one of their members, their first son Leo, married before his Rabbi mother Claudia, easily the most exotic, creature in the world: `No one is interested in you. There is one star of this show: tall and distractingly voluptuous in sea-green silk devore. With her in their mist...who could not be happy?' Yet Leo strangely has other plans. He elopes before the congregation with the seductive wife of the presiding Rabbi and precipates the whole Rubin family into chaotic disarray. Claudia's control begins to slip. Her dutiful daughter Frances, once gratefully married to the monstrously complacent Jonathan, falls for the `boyfriend' of her younger sister and finds that attraction has its own surprises and rewards. Rebellion mounts and even Claudia's steady husband Norman has his own preoccupations and secrets. Mendelson's writing delights in its frothy intelligence, sudden illumination and underlining compassion for the disordering impulses that may unravel our tried and tested lives, yet also redeem us, as we discover who we really, honestly are.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Family Dysfunction Novel 2 May 2008
I'm a big fan of Mendelson's work in general, and this novel did not disappoint. Although as a youngest sibling I might quibble with her tendency to sympathize with eldest siblings, her depiction of familial relationships and conflicts is unparalleled.

As someone with a female rabbi in her family, I appreciated her humanization of Claudia Rubin, the matriarch and rabbi around whom the other characters (and the action of the novel) revolves. I was particularly fascinated by the idea of someone who can connect with and lead strangers, but fails to connect with and lead her own family. While other reviewers here might feel that rabbis must demonstrate spiritual leadership, in the familial realm that's often not the case. Rabbis can be people with problems too.

Most importantly, Mendelson's writing is positively propulsive. It's rare to find a literary writer, with such creative and original language and imagery, who can also drive a page-turning plot. I had to force myself to slow down to appreciate the writing, because I kept speeding up to find out what was going to happen!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars I did not enjoy it at all
Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it at all. I thought the story was very weak and unrealistic and not well written. Sorry!
Published 4 months ago by B A Steiner
4.0 out of 5 stars Good solid story of families
A book which features a series of characters, whose Jewish religion featured heavily, and although I didn't understand a lot of the cultural references, it's a good story which... Read more
Published 7 months ago by DebsMcG
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy Going in Places
Rabbi Claudia Rubin is looking forward to her next book being published as well as her oldest son's wedding. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Wobette
2.0 out of 5 stars DISAPPOINTING
Tedious read. It is not her best novel. At my second attempt I gave up.
Published 7 months ago by KATE
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Read only if you want to know about yet another middle class New York Jewish family
Published 9 months ago by neighbour
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable,but too much improbable behaviour
There are all sorts of improbabilities in this novel. The first is right at the beginning, when the thirty-four year old Leo Rubin abandons his intended bride Naomi just as she... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Ralph Blumenau
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I like to finish a book if I start it but this failed to catch my attention so it will remain unread.
Published 15 months ago by karen brett
4.0 out of 5 stars Intense
You get to see inside the heads of all the members of one big family as some look for their boundarie. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Rosemary Blake
5.0 out of 5 stars When We Were Bad Charlotte Mendelson
The first time I have read any of this author's books and I will certainly be reading more. Great story about a rather dysfunctional Jewish family but beautifully written
Published 15 months ago by Moyra Spencer
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea
I found this hard going and gave up after a few chapters. The problem was that I simply did not care enough about the characters because they were so uninteresting and the author... Read more
Published 16 months ago by S. Norman
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