Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens

The Elected Member
by Bernice Rubens
1970 Booker Prize
3 stars - take it or leave it

Not a bad book, but I wouldn't feel like I missed anything if I had skipped it.

Norman Zweck is a drug addict. He's also insane. 

The story revolves around Norman and his family and takes place over the span of a few weeks. I think the moral of the story is that all families are messed up and that keeping secrets makes it worse.

Poor Norman. Confined to a psychiatric facility in 1969. Meaning a warehouse where the patients are doped up and not much more. 

Over the course of the story, the author reveals pivotal moments in the lives of Norman and his family. It is all painfully real and depressing. Not exactly holiday fare.

For literary scholars, however, the writing style is worth examination. I wish the subject matter had been more uplifting because I admired how the author spun her tale. She reveals very little about the characters, yet just enough for the reader to feel that they know exactly what is going on and motivating them. Enough to feel the pain of Norman, his father, and his two sisters as they muddle along.

The flow of the writing is exquisite. Neither overwrought with elaborate sentences, nor simplistic, she finds the right balance to bring readers effortlessly along for the ride. 

Norman's mother, Sarah, is deceased during the time the novel takes place and only appears in flashbacks. She does seem to have been a bit, well, overbearing and possibly the source of much of the familial dysfunction. 

The writing is good enough for me to want to try another one of her works. I was delighted to discover that as the years passed, she veered into thrillers and dark comedies. Put a couple in the old queue. Stay tuned.


  1. I'll add it to "the list." I'm a sucker for good writing...


  2. Not up for dysfuntional whack jobs. At least not right now. Or possibly ever. Not that I'm knocking good writing, but since I'm currently re-reading 'Don't sweat the small stuff' I probably don't need to be depressed right now! ;-)

    -Dr. Liz, and not Fiona the dog...

  3. Sounds like an author worth checking, but probably not that particular book. Am curious about the title, though. My initial thought was it must have a political spin, although one can be elected a member to a lot of things besides a political post, I guess. Must be my D.C. bias showing.

  4. I can live without the insane. It's too bad when excellent writing is overshadowed by depressing subject matter.

    On another note, I got World War Z for Dan for Christmas, and all of his brothers are clamoring to read it. More copies might have to wing their ways into my house. Thanks, Mango Momma!