Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
|Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: It's only published in January but it wouldn't surprise me if this was my book of the year. It's a brilliant read and highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: January 2018|
|Publisher: Simon and Schuster|
Sophie had been married to James for twelve years and two children: to be honest she was more than a little bit in awe of him. James Whitehouse was an MP and junior minister: perhaps most importantly he was a friend of the prime minister, so when he had to admit that he'd been having an affair he was confident that some contrition, a public admission that he'd been wrong, that he was not perfect, would soon have his career back on track. And it seemed as though that was the way it was going, until a friend of the 'other woman', parliamentary researcher Olivia Lytton, persuaded her to go to the police. There was no dispute that the relationship had been consensual, but after James had finished the affair there was an incident in a lift in House of Commons and the police and the Crown Prosecution Service were both of the opinion that this amounted to rape. The prosecuting counsel is Kate Woodcroft and she's very determined that Whitehouse is going to be brought to book.
James and Sophie met at Oxford: both keen rowers and he a member of the Libertines, a rather outrageous dining club. James is keen to do well as he wants to go into politics, but Sophie's there for the experience and to meet potential husbands. She relies a little too heavily on the assistance of her tutorial partner, Holly Berry. Holly's very bright, but her Liverpool comprehensive school background means that she's always going to feel out of place and has no way of coping when someone really takes advantage of her.
Sometimes a novel comes along at exactly the right moment: sexual abuse in high profile professions has been in the headlines recently and there's no reason to suppose that there aren't more revelations to come. Sarah Vaughan has created a brilliant plot which explores rape and consent with an interesting sideline on the nature of adversarial courtroom advocacy: it's not - as you might expect - there to elicit the truth. It's, quite simply, a contest and the better advocate often wins, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the defendant. If this all sounds rather worthy, don't worry. There's one of the best courtroom scenes I've ever read and I finished the book in less than twenty-four hours, determined to find out what happened.
The characters are superb: you can almost sympathise with Sophie. She's in a difficult position, wanting her husband to be proved innocent, but with a gnawing doubt that the events under discussion didn't quite happen as her husband says. She's also got to put her hurt to one side and be publicly supportive, regardless of what she thinks. James Whitehouse is charismatic, the sort of person people believe, want to believe, but he has no compunction about massaging the facts so that they fit the outcome he requires. After all, that's all that matters. But has he met his match in Kate Woodcroft and why is she so determined that he's found guilty? Is it just her career that's important to her?
It's a cracking good read and it's going to take some beating as my book of the year in 2018. You've got to be very confident to say that about a book published in January... I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
It's a different country, a different underlying problem, but if this book appeals then you might also enjoy Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. You might also appreciate Closed Doors by Lisa O'Donnell.
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