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When We Were Bad: A Novel Paperback – Nov 1 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Picador UK (Nov. 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330456105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330456104
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 11 x 2.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,319,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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By Jill Meyer HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on June 23 2012
Format: Paperback
British author Charlotte Menedelson gives us the Rubin family of Hampstead in her novel, "When We Were Bad". The family, super-star Rabbi Claudia Rubin - picture buxom beauty Nigella Lawson wearing a tallis - and her author-husband Norman, have raised together four children, all of whom are still part of the family, even at the advanced ages of early 30's and late 20's. Claudia is the firmament around which the other family members move and to whom they owe their love, livelihoods, and most of all, allegiance. "Rabbi Claudia" is the most famous, "out-there", rabbi in London and is a popular author, speaker, and...rabbi to her congregation in Belsize Park.

Claudia Rubin could be called a narcissist, I suppose; totally without a sense of humor about her family and world, she expects everyone to do and everything to be to her liking. Her four children, Frances, married to a widower and the mother of a young son; Leo, about to marry in a huge wedding, deserts his bride at the altar and runs off with the officiating rabbi's wife; Simeon, a young druggy and lay-about who adores his mother; and Emily, a late 20's woman who also can't get her life together. Norman is an habitually failed biographer, happy to let wife Claudia be the star in the family. Rabbi Claudia would like to present her family to the world as "perfect", but the reality of the situation begins to erase the perception.

Charlotte Mendelson's novel is a comedy-of-manners, though, as I write this review, I'm making the characters and the plot sound, well, grim. The plot covers a four or five month period in the Rubin family's life, beginning with Leo deserting his bride and ending a few nights after the Passover seder-from-hell.
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Format: Paperback
I loved the total disaster that is this family. I found this book so real in its depictions of dysfunction within a family and how this familial dysfunction plays out in the individual lives of the family members.

It took me a while to get fully engaged in this book as the book is written from the perspective of multiple characters and it is often unclear at the outset which character is in focus. At first I found myself regularly going back in the book to clarify who was who and what I knew about them. Ultimately I found that this exercise served to deepen my connection to the characters. Once I was half-way through the book I felt like I was connected to the Rubin family and found the characters to be easily identifiable.

I think the depth of the author's character development is exceptional. It is not often that I cannot get a character out of my mind, and I continue to think about Frances. I miss Frances and am so glad to have had the chance to walk in her world.

I just cannot say enough how very much I enjoyed this book and how grateful I am to Mendelson for sharing the Rubin family with me. I look forward to reading more of this author's work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Dysfunctional, enmeshed family headed by narcissistic matriarch May 30 2008
By Marron - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
SPOILER ALERT

This book is well written, and at times amusing, but quite exasperating in its depiction of the Rubin family. I disliked half the characters, and the least likable ones were so broadly drawn as to be unbelievable (e.g., a 27 year old woman in so many words telling her brother, who wants to live with his lover, "How could you? We all have to sacrifice our lives for mum's sake!"). As a therapist I found the level of family dysfunction and enmeshment not very funny at all. Was it supposed to be endearing, despite its quirks? Well, it wasn't!

Three stars for readability, and for giving us two characters who escaped (more or less).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
When We Were Bad Nov. 11 2007
By Book Bag - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Have just finished reading When We Were Bad and found the story very entertaining and humorous. Great depiction of a family who appears to be "the perfect family" to outsiders, but when we see the family from the inside, is just as dysfunctional as many of us. Very clever writing.

Would recommend this book - definitely.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Not easy to characterize Dec 31 2007
By algo41 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is not easy to characterize, and that is one of its strong points. It is the story of a dominating woman, her children and her husband who have all suffered from this domination, but it is also what I call a feel good story, thanks to its outcomes; it is also a social satire and even a comedy. Francis at one point is behaving strangely, but she is only dimly aware of this, "no more than of the thick gray dust crushed beneath the wheels (of the train), the gray mice trembling against the track as the train races past into darkness". Mendelsohn is not a particularly good prose stylist, but the quoted material is from an author who sometimes expects her readers to laugh with her at her characters and their weaknesses and situations.

The dominating woman is a Rabbi, and her professional life certainly adds interest to the story, though theology plays no real role. I think Mendelsohn goes a little overboard with the 2 younger children, and I think an editor could have eliminated Simeon with good effect.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Very easy to read. Oct. 6 2013
By Janine Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The story of a headlining female British Rabii and her family is one of laughter, tears and eccentricities. I'ts also about keeping up appearances in a family that is expected to show it's best side to the world at all times and even to one another if that can be managed.
At the beginning of the book a crisis occurs and the fought for façade of the perfect family is shaken. Read on as you wonder what will happen as more cracks appear- will the family implode or learn to relate with realism?
There's a lot going on in this book and yet it's very simply written, no flowery words, a more economical style. Not something I usually go for but it works well.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A really hard book to rate... June 23 2012
By Jill Meyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
British author Charlotte Mendelson gives us the Rubin family of Hampstead in her novel, "When We Were Bad". The family, super-star Rabbi Claudia Rubin - picture buxom beauty Nigella Lawson wearing a tallis - and her author-husband Norman, have raised together four children, all of whom are still part of the family, even at the advanced ages of early 30's and late 20's. Claudia is the firmament around which the other family members move and to whom they owe their love, livelihoods, and most of all, allegiance. "Rabbi Claudia" is the most famous, "out-there", rabbi in London and is a popular author, speaker, and...rabbi to her congregation in Belsize Park.

Claudia Rubin could be called a narcissist, I suppose; totally without a sense of humor about her family and world, she expects everyone to do and everything to be to her liking. Her four children, Frances, married to a widower and the mother of a young son; Leo, about to marry in a huge wedding, deserts his bride at the altar and runs off with the officiating rabbi's wife; Simeon, a young druggy and lay-about who adores his mother; and Emily, a late 20's woman who also can't get her life together. Norman is an habitually failed biographer, happy to let wife Claudia be the star in the family. Rabbi Claudia would like to present her family to the world as "perfect", but the reality of the situation begins to erase the perception.

Charlotte Mendelson's novel is a comedy-of-manners, though, as I write this review, I'm making the characters and the plot sound, well, grim. The plot covers a four or five month period in the Rubin family's life, beginning with Leo deserting his bride and ending a few nights after the Passover seder-from-hell. During that time, the children and Norman "find" themselves, in word and deed, and Rabbi Claudia's life is never the same. But, it really shouldn't be, as the reader finds out.

This book is a tough one to rate. I found it 5 star delightful but others won't. I didn't mind putting up with Rabbi Claudia and her narcissism but then I like characters with an edge. If you're thinking of buying this book, please read all the other reviews. Most are valid, I think. Then choose.

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