Published by Simon & Schuster UK
11 January 2018
Source: ARC – Review Copy
| About the Book |
A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it.
Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.
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Anatomy of a Scandal is an excellent book to start off my 2018 reviews. Bearing in mind the recent sex scandals surrounding Westminster (and elsewhere) in recent months, I think that Sarah Vaughan must be able to see into the future – this book is so topical and yet I understand it was actually written before October 2016.
Told from three perspectives – Kate Woodcroft QC – a barrister, James Whitehouse – an MP and Home Office Minster and his wife Sophie, the story builds slowly but with each revelation we gain further insight into the characters and their lives.
Kate Woodcroft is a barrister specialising in sex crimes who has been given the case to prosecute. At first sight, the file of papers for R v Whitehouse seems to be nothing out of the ordinary for her however this is far from true – James’ position as a high profile politician takes this case to another level. She comes across as a focused, determined woman with nothing in her life but her job and I couldn’t help but wonder why. Having said that, there were little chinks in her amour which put me on her side straight away. Kate is convinced that James is guilty and is determined to prove it.
James Whitehouse has been caught not only having an affair with a young woman in his office but he is subsequently accused of rape. A close friend of the PM, he is described as good-looking and perfectly charming – excellent at schmoozing people however he can also be arrogant with a sense of entitlement. In dissecting his character, we learn about his university days, which gives a conflicting view of his personality. He was a rower for an elite crew which necessitated an extremely high level of fitness and self control but that conflicts with the excesses shown by his membership of the notorious Libertine dining club with his fellow Oxford mates –whose idea of entertainment was to smash up restaurants and empty bottles of Bollinger down the sink. I remember seeing a photo in the newspapers of ex PM David Cameron and friends when members of The Bullingdon Club, an all male dining club, posing on steps dressed in their fopery– this is the image I had in my mind when reading about James and his exploits at Oxford.
His wife Sophie has been the mainstay of the family and is more used to life in the background. Looking after the children and supporting her husband so that he can concentrate on his career, she believes that she knows everything about her husband. However as the trial continues and allegations are made she begins to wonder whether she ever knew him at all. Having to deal with the press intrusion into her marriage and the effect it has on her family takes its toll and I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her.
“But can your marriage survive if you are forced to listen to every detail of the liaison? If that relationship is picked apart like roadkill ripped by carrion – and if your marriage is then put under the spotlight, its flaws, its robustness implicitly questioned and found wanting after all?…..”
The author’s journalistic and court experience comes across so well in this authentic and powerful story. The story goes back and forth in time but in the present day and when following the trial, we see a marriage in danger of falling apart, and overshadowing this, the actual rape allegation itself and the question of consent and the way the accuser herself is put on trial. As Kate Woodcroft reminds us in the beginning, it is a fact that so many rape trials do not result in the conviction of the accused and here, I have to admit that my feelings about the validity of the accusations changed throughout the story. Likewise, my initial thoughts about Sophie were that she was a weak and somewhat naïve woman and again my opinion differed as more facts were disclosed and secrets from the past came to light.
If you are expecting a fast paced thriller with a twist on every page, then this isn’t it, although the turn of events at one stage took me by surprise. However, if you want a fantastically gripping and thoughtful story with realistic and intricately described characters then look no further. I’m sure this will be a huge success for Sarah Vaughan and deservedly so. Anatomy of a Scandal would make an excellent choice for a book club, as there is so much scope for discussion.
My thanks to Hayley and the publisher for the ARC to review.
| About the author |
Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to be a journalist. After training at the Press Assocation, she spent eleven years at the Guardian as a news reporter, health correspondent and political correspondent. It wasn’t until her second child was born, that she finally did what she’d always wanted to do and started writing fiction. The Art of Baking Blind is the result, and will also be published in the US (St Martin’s Press) and in nine translations. She lives near Cambridge and is working on her second novel.