When We Were Bad  by Charlotte Mendelson

When We Were Bad by Charlotte Mendelson

The Rubin family, everybody agrees, seems doomed to happiness.



If this, the few minutes before the wedding, could be frozen and kept unsullied by the future – the Rubins in their heyday – their happiness would be complete. But it cannot be frozen. Things happen.

It is the wedding day of Leo, the glamorous Rabbi Claudia Rubin’s first-born son.  Leo, like his sister Frances before him, like, in fact, the famously happily-married Claudia herself, seems about to marry well.  But even perfect families can fall apart and today, at Leo’s glorious wedding, with every eye upon them, the spectacular fall of the Rubin family is about to begin. 

Praise for "When We Were Bad"

This is a dazzling portrait of a family in crisis. Watchful, alert to details and insightful, it more than meets the challenge of its opening line: ‘The Rubin family, everybody agrees, seems doomed to happiness’
— Guardian
Assured, inventive and entertaining…brilliantly climactic…intelligent and witty. The Rubin family may be a singular one but the delights and the difficulties its members have with sex and spirituality, food and domesticity, expectation and acheivement, will have a universal appeal
— Sunday Telegraph
I didn’t get to bed until three last night after reading WHEN WE WERE BAD in the bath. The guilt, the shame, the triumphs, the love and anxieties of family life - Mendelson unpeels the layers like an onion. A novel to devour
— Fay Weldon in Harper’s Bazaar
Fast-paced and engaging…brilliant…touching and true
— Naomi Alderman, Financial Times
Charlotte Mendelson’s WHEN WE WERE BAD will take its place among classic accounts of tribal misadventure with the same apparent effortlessness that proves so pleasurable in her writing. Rarely can readers of contemporary fiction feel themselves to be in such safe hands. How her editors must have thrilled when presented with such an impeccable novel. The family in question is the Rubins; a unit not merely Jewish, but rabbinical, and yet instantly recognisable to the most goyish reader…This is not a funny novel, but it creates the same feel-good effect, despite the many miseries it describes. Mendelson is good on food, fond of a gustatory metaphor, and there is something delectably satisfying in her writing – an indulgence one can relish without fear of crass note. Her characters manifest that consummate novelistic accomplishment: fiction with the air of reportage. Like one’s own nearest and sometime dearest, the Rubins don’t appear written, they just are
— Hannah Betts, The Times

This is a third novel by Charlotte Mendelson, whose second, Daughters of Jerusalem, won the Somerset Maugham Award and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Her novels are perfectly balanced observations of human nature captured in all its hideous glories, usually in family settings. As intelligent as it is funny, her writing is brilliant at bringing out the awkwardness of the transition from family life to independent adult existence (if, indeed, any of us really achieve it)… Mendelson’s writing is a joy because it is ultra-tight: not one spare word…There is just the right tension between plot and character here: you care about how it will all unravel and you relish every moment along the way. Mendelson has an astonishing eye for detail, for images and sayings that remain with you long afterwards. She gives her characters seemingly innocuous secret thoughts full of meaning…This is a beautifully observed literary comedy as well as a painfully accurate depiction of one big old family mess. It makes you cringe, laugh and wince in all the right places. It is not so much about the life of one Jewish family as it is about the lies we all tell ourselves in order to put up with our ramshackle home lives
— Viv Groskop, Observer