Former home of novelist Bernice Rubens, 101 Kimberley Road, Penylan, Cardiff

This was once the home of Bernice Rubens, before she became a noted novelist. In 2024 a purple plaque was unveiled here in her honour. Please respect the occupants’ privacy and don’t enter the front garden.

Portrait of Bernice RubensBernice’s parents, Eli Harold Reuben and his wife Dorothy (nee Cohen), had met in Wales after fleeing from the persecution of Jews in mainland Europe – in Latvia and Poland respectively. Eli had bought a ticket to New York in Hamburg but the seller was a trickster. The ship took him to Cardiff. Days or weeks later, someone pointed out to Eli that he was actually in Cardiff and not New York!

Eli and Dorothy lived in a terraced house in Splott and had four children, including Bernice in 1923. Eli eventually made enough money from selling shoes and clothes in the Valleys to buy this house in Penylan. The family was musical. Bernice later played down her musical talents, but playing the piano and cello remained important to her in her adult life.

After leaving Cardiff High School for Girls, she studied English at Cardiff University before becoming a teacher in Birmingham and later settling in London. She married writer and wine merchant Rudolf Nassauer, whose family had fled from Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany, in 1947. The couple had two daughters before separating in 1969.

Bernice’s first novel was published in 1960. In 1970 she was the first woman to win the prestigious Booker Prize, for The Elected Member. She wrote 24 novels and a memoir, often displaying a talent for dark comedy and satire. Some of her books describe hardships faced by Jewish people in Europe, including as refugees in Britain. Several of her novels were adapted for film or television. She died in London in 2004.

Postcode: CF23 5DP    View Location Map

Purple Plaques website – celebrating remarkable women in Wales