Anatomy of a Scandal is being published at a time when both sides of rape trials are under enormous scrutiny in the press. While I was reading this book, two men were acquitted because full disclosure hadn’t taken place, some commentators believe this is partly caused by the drive to secure more convictions in rape trials. What no-one can deny that this crime is usually committed without witnesses and I don’t envy any jury having to sift fact from fiction or maybe hazy memories when so much is at stake for both alleged victim and perpetrator. Coupled with the rape are the many scandals that seem to provide a backdrop to our country from those who hold the highest offices in the land, at Westminster. So the combination of Ministers and rape, well this could come straight from the newspapers of today, except of course the book is very well written!
Over the years my love of courtroom drama has increased and so when I heard of this book back in the summer, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy; Dear Reader, this book did not disappoint in the slightest.
James Whitehouse is a loving father, an Oxford graduate and a Tory MP, in fact the Prime Minister is one of his oldest friends. James is married to Sophie and has been for many years when he is arrested for the rape of one of his assistants but Sophie is convinced it’s all a terrible mistake.
Kate is the prosecuting attorney, out to make a bigger name for herself she knows that if she can persuade a jury to find James guilty then she can ride high off the back of it. Sex crimes is her speciality although she is realistic about the low conviction rate, she’s determined to win this one.
The story unfolds through the three sets of eyes and ears: Sophie’s, Kate’s and James and as each one seeks to convince us of their truth, the shadows from the past are creeping back into their lives creating a complexity about the truth that is nebulous and yet not about to disappear anytime soon.
Sarah Vaughan is an accomplished writer, she had my feelings about the characters shifting almost imperceptibly as I struggled to work out what I should believe. The plot, just like a real trial, isn’t just about the truth, it also confronts our own moral stance from the obvious What were you wearing? Doing? Thinking? or in other words those questions aimed at the alleged victim by the defence team, to the more subtle question of privilege and the jury’s own prejudices.
The plotting was superb especially given that the story reaches back through time the author managed to keep a sense of place and time without causing confusion, which I’m sure is far harder than she made it look. I was also completely convinced by the characters they spoke and acted realistically given that this was a time of enormous stress for them all, albeit for different reasons.
Anatomy of a Scandal might be presented as a rape trial, and of course it is, but there is far more depth to this novel than I expected. The roller-coaster isn’t just about the verdict, it is also about marriage, friendship and moral dilemmas making for a highly satisfying read.
Anatomy for a Scandal is obviously perfect reading for a book group, I can see that this book will generate much discussion and debate around the subject matter and the way the trial progresses.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers, Simon & Schuster UK, for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book. You really did the right thing in purchasing this brilliant, intelligent and thought-provoking book. This unbiased review is my thank you to the publishers and of course, Sarah Vaughan, who I sincerely hope is busy writing something new for me to enjoy.