To begin at the beginning
Maybe not quite at the beginning but I’m starting my Booker quest with the novel that won in 1970. In The Elected Member, Bernice Rubens looks at the damage caused to a close-knit Jewish family in London’s East End when their barrister son descends into drug induced paranoia. Norman enjoys a brilliant career as a barrister until, at the age of 41, he becomes an addict confined to a bedroom he believes is infested with silver-fish.
According to Rubens’ obituary, she once wrote that: “The acid test of a good piece of writing, even if it is of violence and cruelty, is that it must make one’s ears water.” I’m not far enough into the book to experience any watery eyes yet though the opening chapters describing Norman’s hallucinations did capture my attention.
Reading the introductory blurb, I was surprised to find Bernice Rubens came from my part of the world. She was born in Cardiff, Wales in July 1928. She turned to writing in her mid thirties when her children started nursery school. The Elected Member, was her fourth novel. 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.