Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

1970 Booker Prize Winner

The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens


Publisher: Eyre & Spottiswoode

Length: 224 pages

About: High achiever ruined by drug addiction

Style: 3rd person

Where: England (London)

When: 1960s



Publisher’s synopsis:

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, his committal to a mental hospital represents the ultimate act of betrayal. For Rabbi Zweck, Norman’s father, his son’s deterioration is a bitter reminder of his own guilt and failure. Only Bella, the unmarried sister, still in her childhood white ankle socks, can reach across the abyss of pain to bring father and son the elusive peace which they both so desperately crave.




They could not bear to make him miserable, though if she were honest, it was her own pain and her father's that was unsupportable. And so they had both entered Norman's derangement, making it workable, tidying it even, making it all 'nice'. They were both equally guilty. She knew in her heart, it was better for strangers to look after him. Her answer over the years to Norman's sickness had been that he was doing it on purpose to drive them all crazy. She had to be angry with him. It was the surest hold on her own sanity. If a mind wavered, it was best to keep the kin at bay.





The Elected Member is a beautifully written novel about a deeply troubled family on the brink; it's not a feel-good novel and the ending isn't particularly happy but I found it nonetheless to be a very satisfying read. The characters were very well-drawn and convincing, and I like the way the secret at the core of the book unwinds itself slowly. The issues it raises haven't aged; it's just as relevant as ever and might make an interesting and off-beat book club pick for brave readers. But I think any reader of literary fiction should seriously consider adding it to his or her reading list.

The Boston Bibliophile, Marie Clouter, 15th June 2011 To see full review click here.



Not so good:

There are flaws. The steadily and expertly built tension of Norman and his family's struggle diffuses into a melodramatic and rather silly conclusion. Also, a back story, pinning a large amount of the blame for Norman's trouble (pace Laing) onto a stereotypically domineering Jewish mother and sexual-orientation issues doesn't convince as completely as the action that takes place in the present.

So, The Elected Member is a worthy winner and a brave choice for the Booker prize, but not a masterpiece. It's probably best summed up by the author herself, and her typically terse assessment of her own writing: "Better than most, not as good as some."

Sam Jordison The Guardian Book Blog, 12th December 2007. Click here for full review.



About the author

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 Sentence. Her last novel, The Sergeants’ Tale, was published in 2003. She was an honorary vice-president of International PEN and served as a Booker judge in 1986. Bernice Rubens died in 2004 aged 76.


LAST          NEXT


<1969> -  <1971>

















Page turner







Age guide: 12







Novels by same author:

  • Set on Edge (1960)
  • Madame Sousatzka (1962)
  • Mate in Three (1966)
  • Chosen People (1969)
  • Sunday Best (1971)
  • Go Tell the Lemming (1973)
  • I Sent a Letter To My Love (1975)
  • The Ponsonby Post (1977)
  • A Five-Year Sentence (1978)
  • Spring Sonata (1979)
  • Birds of Passage (1981)
  • Brothers (1983)
  • Mr Wakefield's Crusade (1985)
  • Our Father (1987)
  • Kingdom Come (1990)
  • A Solitary Grief (1991)
  • Mother Russia (1992)
  • Autobiopsy (1993)
  • Hijack (1993)
  • Yesterday in the Back Lane (1995)
  • The Waiting Game (1997)
  • I, Dreyfus (1999)
  • Milwaukee (2001)
  • Nine Lives (2002)
  • The Sergeants' Tale (2003)
  • When I Grow Up (2005)








None to date















2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

Extract from New York Times to view full article...

Click here


Print Print | Sitemap Recommend this page Recommend this page
© Prize Winning Fiction