The prize had its first female winner when Bernice Rubens triumphed with The Elected Member, a tale of a man suffering amphetamine psychosis who sees silverfish everywhere.

Rubens, the daughter of two Eastern European emigrants, was born in Cardiff and made her way to fiction after spells as a grammar-school teacher and documentary maker. Her win showed that from the start the Booker Prize was not afraid of being challenging: the travails of her unhinged central character, Norman Zweck, do not make for easy reading.

Rubens was, however, clear-sighted, not least about her own writing, which she judged: ‘Better than most, not as good as some.’

Bernice Rubens
Published by
Eyre & Spottiswoode
Bernice Rubens explores what happens to a respectable, close-knit Jewish family when the apple of his parents’ eyes becomes a middle-aged drug addict.

The Shortlist

The Elected Member
Prize winner
John Brown's Body
Eva Trout
Bruno's Dream
The Conjunction

The 1970 judges