Review | Anatomy of a Scandal | Sara Vaughan
Publication Date: January 23rd, 2018
Publisher: Emily Bestler Books/ Atria Books
Page Count: 392 Pages
Why I read it: The premise grabbed me.
First Sentence: "My wig slumps on my desk where I have tossed it like flattened roadkill."
Synopsis: An astonishingly incisive and suspenseful novel about a scandal amongst Britain’s privileged elite and the women caught up in its wake.
Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart.
Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes.
Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience? Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy.
Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. What would she think, if she knew the truth?
My Thoughts: I'm sad to say that I wanted to enjoy this more than I did. I loved that it was an incredibly timely story. It fits right into the narrative of #metoo and is a vivid example of how consent can be thrown into the grey areas that should not exist. The suspense builds right away and there was a decent amount of foreshadowing that piqued my interest. That said, this was not the thriller I expected. It started out strong and the ending was interesting, but the middle dragged a bit and I found my attention wandering. A part of it is that I'm not familiar with English law or education culture- I think that background might have helped. I found Sophie to be one of the more interesting (if frustrating) characters. Ultimately, I was satisfied with out everything unfolded, but to be honest, I'm not in the mode of finding stories about the behind the scenes of the privileged that interesting. I also enjoyed reading about the barrister, Kate. She is a fighter and I loved reading about her practice and own experience. I wouldn't mind seeing her try more cases in the future- the courtroom scenes were my favorite. Go into this knowing it is more character driven than plot driven, that it is nothing like the TV show Scandal, that the trial section is authentic and well-researched, and that the payoff takes awhile to build to. But if you can hang with that- you'll get there!
Favorite Quote: “It is hardwired into us that we should placate and mollify- bend our will to that of men. Oh, some of us have fought against that, and we're seen as hard-nosed, difficult, assertive, shrewish. We pay the penalty."
Rating: 3.25/5 A slow burn that is a good book, but one that I might have liked more in a different time in my life.
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