Published during the height of the #MeToo movement, Anatomy of a Scandal feels like it could easily have been ripped from the headlines where a rising politician is suddenly on trial for assault of an employee.
The book follows his wife, Sophie Whitehouse, and the lawyer prosecuting him, barrister Kate Woodcroft. Their conflicting ideas about who this man really is and what he did forms the basis of this courtroom drama.
It has a nuanced storyline about the boundaries of consent that feels authentic if a little sensationalized to depict a scandalous secret.
That’s all I’m going to give away here without ruining the book, but you can read all the Anatomy of a Scandal spoilers below.
Where the novel shines is in its realistic depictions of the female characters. You understand and empathize with how difficult it is for Kate to confront her past, or for Sophie to admit her husband is not the man she thought he was. Her loss of herself after years of marriage is and how that affects her really rings true in this case.
As a former political correspondent, author Sarah Vaughan has an insider’s knowledge of this world that really shows.
Loving father and Sophie’s husband, James, is also believable in his narcissism. His belief that ordinary rules don’t apply to him and that he knows better than others is sadly, also commonplace (especially in politics).
The story of the unfolding scandal he causes is gripping enough you want to keep reading, but slow enough you do start to wish you could skip ahead. Overall it has decent pacing, but it might have benefitted from a little more editing just to make it feel as quick as you expect this kind of propulsive courtroom drama to be.
This is not a perfect novel. There are some character holes and plot points that seem less than believable, especially around James.
But the fact is, whatever its limitations, I couldn’t put the book down.
Sarah Vaughan pulls you through to the end by the promise some big secret is waiting for you. And you NEED to know what it is. The payoff is maybe not as climatic as you might hope, but it’s still very satisfying.
While in my opinion, it’s not five stars, it IS a solid four. It’s is an impressive debut novel by its author,and in all, I would call myself a huge fan of the book! If you are into courtroom drama, tales of revenge and justice, and complex female characters, this is a fantastic book for you. I’ll definitely be picking up a copy of Reputation, Sarah Vaughan’s newest novel, next.