When We Were Bad by Charlotte Mendelson

When We Were Bad

Charlotte Mendelson

Meet a seemingly happy Jewish family with more secrets than a Dickens' novel. Matriarch and rabbi, Claudia Ruben, wields a rod of iron where her husband and older children are concered but is putty in the hands of her spoilt and selfish younger child. The tone is quite light and may raise a knowing smile – but watch out for a disturbing undercurrent - it's never far away. Outwardly harmonious but inwardly dysfunctional - just about sums it up.


And there it is again, like the distant vibrations of a Tube train, at first inseparable from one's own breathing, the press of life: the rumblings of trouble. Where is it coming from? Norman is conducting his customary noisy seminar on the significance of the Hillel sandwich, to divert those for whom thoughts of the bitterness of life may be too much. Isn't he a little louder, more urgent-sounding, than usual? Simeon, whom she discovered a little late in the day has shaped the Seder plate charoset into rather a brilliant caricature of Leo, is glaring ferociously at his brother, who is gazing . . .well, elsewhere. And Emily is flirting with the French biochemist to her left, ignoring both poor old Charles Levine, who thanks to his heartless sons has nowhere to go, and the documentary-maker to her right, who has such power. And as for Frances - well, if the idea of tonight is control in the guise of relaxation, Frances, biting her fingernails, picking at her napkin, is endangering it all.

  • Daughters of Jerusalem by Charlotte Mendelson
  • Scribblers on the Roof: Contemporary American Jewish Fiction by MJ Bukiet

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