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The Elected Member Hardcover – 1 Sep 1983

3.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 1 Sep 1983
£386.14
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd; New edition edition (1 Sept. 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241111129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241111123
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,104,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

She has a large compassion, and an intelligence which makes her compulsively readable. (NEW STATESMAN)

Splendidly sane, compassionate and often grotesquely funny. (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

The writing sparkles and flickers and blazes. (JEWISH CHRONICLE)

The novel moves from intense emotion to humour and pathos to the frightening realisation that those who are surrounded by the insane quickly become insane themselves. Read it. (DARTS) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Bernice Rubens was born is Wales and worked as both a writer and a film maker. She is the winner of the Booker Prize for The Elected Member, and was shortlisted for the same prize for a subsequent novel: A Five Year Sentence. She died in 2004. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 11 Dec. 2001
Format: Paperback
"The Elected Member" is the story of Norman, a mentally disturbed high-achiever in a close-knit Jewish family confined to a mental institution when his family feel they can no longer cope, and it is sensational in its achievements. It is written in such a way as to involve the reader to the highest possible degree, making him cry, laugh, and experience all the devestating emotions of the characters about which he is reading. The problems and situations it presents are for many easy to identify with, making it a book that is painful to read at the same time as being, for this very reason, impossible to put down. It is Rubens's style - pure storytelling - that makes the book so effective. Lack of too-involved description or her own opinions makes us focus on her subject instead, which is, of course, the most important thing, and the portrayal of her characters and their various reactions to Norman's illness as they face up to their own involvement with it is probably more believable than anything else I have ever read that it almost seems autobiographical.
This is a superb book, the author having gone almost too far into such a taboo issue as mental illness and the culpability of the family of the sick member. I felt guilt, I felt sadness, I felt despair...then I read it all over again.
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The second Booker Prize winner is a novel about a Jewish family, the Zwecks, whose patriarch is a Lithuanian immigrant. The story not surprisingly comes with all the Jewish paraphernalia you would expect, including exclamations such as 'Oi', but has universal themes and is easy for anyone to relate to.

At the centre of the story is forty year old son Norman, whose descent from gifted, multi-lingual barrister to institutionalised drug addict is symbolic of the family's fortunes. The family's history unfolds while each member tries to come to terms with Norman's problems. There is the elderly father, as apparently naive as the day he stepped off the ship, his late wife who twists reality, the spinster daughter Bella who still wears the white socks of her childhood, and the outcast younger sister Esther who did marry. Their individual stories and guilt or lack thereof combine to make for a sad tale which is nevertheless shot through with humour.

Some of Norman's fellow inmates contribute to the story, particularly the drug pushing, self-styled 'Minister of 'ealth'. The reader's sympathies tend to shift with each revelation. Not a long novel, 'The Elected Member' is cetainly a worthwhile read.
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This book is a model of simple, subtle, seductive writing. The Elected Member is Norman, the extraordinary but increasingly troubled son of a Lithuanian Jewish Rabbi in 1960s London. When we first meet him he is delusional and distraught, and his father and sister have to take the extraordinarily difficult decision to have him committed to a psychiatric hospital. As we journey with them we discover more and more of the family story which has brought them to this place of despair. Bernice Rubens writes concisely but powerfully, and we are drawn in to a place where we care deeply for these characters. She won the Booker Prize in 1970 for The Elected Member, and 45 years later this little gem of a book deserves a new audience.
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The book was easy to read and not knowing anything about Jewish culture was a good introduction, although I did have to research some of the Hebrew terms used. The story centres around mental health and drug issues in a dysfunctional family, asking you to question what is acceptable. The characters are all accessible and whilst not all are likeable, you can at least understand their motivation.
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Format: Paperback
The elected member of this novel is Norman Zweck, the cherished, high-achieving son of a Jewish family in 1960s London. But the book opens with him addicted to amphetamines, his legal career in tatters as he hallucinates.
His experiences in a mental hospital unfold and with them we come to understand how he got to this point; family secrets and a tragedy that scarred him for life.
Both moving and humourous, this is an interesting and unique work.
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