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January book club - Anatomy of a Scandal

(49 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 03-Jan-18 09:31:13

Winners should have got/shortly be getting their copies of this very timely and topical novel by Sarah Vaughan (read more HERE)

If you get one (or buy one anyway - we highly recommend!), do leave your thoughts and questions for Sarah on this thread and we will send them over to be answered at the end of the month

annemac101 Fri 12-Jan-18 19:41:44

Thanks! I have just found it was already on my Netgalley and when I searched for it on kindle I found it so looks like I have some quick reading to do.

obag Sun 14-Jan-18 10:35:37

What a fantastic read, I too could not put it down, and found myself thinking about it throughout the day, it is well written with some unexpected twists.
I think it would make an excellent film or TV drama.
Thanks GN for sending it to me, the download was very easy, I look forward to more from Sarah Vaughan.

Maggiemaybe Tue 16-Jan-18 12:22:24

Oh my goodness, what a book! I haven't enjoyed a couple of the latest book club offerings, and felt a bit ungrateful giving mediocre reviews when the majority seemed to love them, but there's no argument from me this time. mrsmopp described this one as 100% perfect, and I agree - it's very well written, fast moving, intriguing, the characters are believable and well drawn, and the themes of political scandal, sexual offence and the abuse of power fit the zeitgeist perfectly. It's going to be a bestseller, and I'm sure there'll be a TV or film version, that I'll definitely be looking out for.

It's interesting that previous posters like different characters, and I wonder if that depends to some extent on our own backgrounds. I was rooting for Kate and Olivia, but Sophie had my sympathy later in the book. I found myself liking or admiring all the female characters to some extent, but only a couple of the men, and they were very minor players. Could I ask the author which of her characters she most empathised/sympathised with?

Buddie Tue 16-Jan-18 18:10:30

What a great read and so topical, too. I usually read books a chapter at a time but had to allocate longer spells as was compelled to read on. Books that switch between time frames and/or offer multiple viewpoints can feel disjointed but I didn’t find that with Anatomy of a Scandal, partly because the characters’ stories were clearly interwoven. Once past the first three chapters it was easy to see where their stories meshed. Nevertheless I found the pace quite gentle until the mid-book revelation which brought the backstory into focus and speeded up the action towards what seemed would be an obvious ending. From the verdict onwards the tale took on yet more twists and turns and the only issue I felt not fully resolved was Olivia’s reaction.

The settings are as well drawn as the characters.Familiar with Oxford I could trace my steps around the episodes set there so I’m assuming the same would be true for those who know the Houses of Parliament or the Law Courts. (Does Sarah Vaughan keep maps and diagrams on hand to ensure accuracy or simply have a photographic memory). Using real settings is a risk and I wondered if Sarah had considered using more fictionalised ones instead. I appreciate the Colleges have been treated in this way but there are plenty of landmarks and rituals that hint at reality. One final question, was the story written in the sequence in which it appears or were the various threads developed first and then interwoven?

Thank you Gransnet for introducing me to this author. A great read and I look forward to reading more by Sarah very soon.

TerriBull Wed 17-Jan-18 09:14:06

I bought the book in Sainsburys the other day not having applied for one through GN, nevertheless it was a mere £4.99, cheap for a hardback, particularly when compared to the recommened retail price of I think £12.99. I'm about halfway through and really enjoying it, I haven't read a court room book since Apple Tree Yard. I'm not going to read this thread until I've finished it, in case there are any spoilers. A great book club choice.

cikada Sat 20-Jan-18 00:23:53

I very much enjoyed this novel - actually like all other book club choices. Yes, I agree it is very timely although it seems to turn into witch hunt.

loopylou Sat 20-Jan-18 10:14:12

I very much enjoyed reading this book; it's the best read I've had in a long time.
For once the characters are believable and it definitely needs to be made into a film.

annemac101 Wed 24-Jan-18 16:19:14

I couldn't put this book down. I like a good courtroom drama and the not knowing who to believe. What a great TV drama this book would make. I loved Kate and Spohie and really felt for them. Well written and plenty happening in the story to keep me page turning. My question for the author would be, "What's next?"

joannapiano Wed 24-Jan-18 20:28:01

Unlike annemac, I don't usually choose courtroom drama novels, or films. The characters in this book, however, are so vividly drawn and the theme so relevant at the moment, that I found the story very engrossing.
I have been watching the 'educated', wealthy business men on the TV today, who attended the Dorchester fund-raiser last week, and they certainly brought to mind the privileged boys in the novel.
I was particularly rooting for the character of Holly Berry, who struggled with the atmosphere at Oxford. I was glad she ultimately triumphed at the end of the book.
I agree that this would make an excellent TV drama.

marpau Sat 27-Jan-18 11:21:53

What a fabulous page turned each time I thought I had worked things out the author added another twist and I found myself heading in a new direction. As I neared the end of the book I was reluctant to turn the page as I didn't want the book to end.
I feel the author has spent a lot of time on research and there is a lot more to tell about the main characters i do hope there will be a follow up as I want to know more about these people.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 31-Jan-18 15:52:33

A reminder to anyone who got a free copy to please leave thoughts/questions on this thread asap - we will be sending them over to Sarah on Monday

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 06-Feb-18 14:54:19

We have sent the questions over - answers as we get them

stormhorse Sat 10-Feb-18 12:55:53

i got this book from Gransnet and must admit i enjoyed it. well written and thought out. well done.

Grandmalove Sat 17-Feb-18 09:40:40

Sorry to have taken so long to write about the book.
I was very surprised at how this book kept me interested. It is not normally my type of book but I am always willing to try new authors. The story was full of twists and very well written. It would certainly make a good tv series.

quizqueen Sat 24-Feb-18 14:53:19

I was sent this book to review just as I was about to go into hospital for knee surgery so I thought I would have plenty of time to read it but I was in so much pain afterwards that I just sat watching endless episodes of Escape to the Country on tv and feeling sorry for myself!!! So I just dipped into the book when I could muster some interest in reading!!

However, I have just finished it and realised how much I enjoyed it. Although, I'm not always keen on stories which continually flip between timescales, I would certainly read more from this author but wouldn't want a series based on the main character. Although rape is horrible it doesn't have to ruin your whole life and I find characterisations in books where woman go down that route, even though they are successful in other areas, just seem weak.

Also, ( and I know I'm going to get blasted here) but people who put themselves in a position which allow rape or other crimes to happen should take some responsibility. Yes, of course, women should be able to go where they like without fear of assault but they should also be alert and take precautions to avoid any sort of nastiness in all situations. Sorry, but I do think there are also degrees of rape just as there are degrees of assault and some stranger holding a knife to your throat, having dragged you into a dark alley as he rapes you is going to be more traumatic than half heartedly changing your mind half way through intercourse with someone you have previously had a relationship with, in my opinion.

Modern feminism thinking seems to point to a victim always having no responsibility but I do not agree that is always the case. For instance, if a woman had been continually abused then leaves but agrees to go back one more time to chat and collect her things from the former shared house and then gets attacked again, why be surprised!!! Why not take several friends with you for support.

Of course, attackers should be prosecuted and I believe most sentences aren't tough enough but I still think people have to take some responsibility for some of the situations they put themselves in. If you're drunk and go out half naked you could get raped, attacked, have something stolen, fall down and hurt yourself, walk in front of a car etc. Why have so little respect for your own safety!!

These are just my thoughts on reading this book and are not really about the book itself which was actually an easy and enjoyable read. The only thing I wasn't happy with, at the risk of a bit of a spoiler, is I think one of the characters could have done some research very easily online to solve a mystery which dogged her/his thoughts, but I won't say who or what it was So I found that bit rather hard to digest and was a weak link in the story.

SarahVaughan Tue 27-Feb-18 11:52:23


My question for the author is an obvious one, I'm afraid: is this likely to be made into a film or to feature on the radio or TV?


Question for the author Could you turn this into a television drama or is it too near to the characters of present Members of Parliament?

Several readers have very kindly said they could imagine Anatomy of a Scandal as a TV drama, and as I wrote it I imagined it almost cinematically: certainly the iconic settings – Oxford, Westminster, Temple and the Old Bailey – lend themselves to the screen and I think you could convey a great deal of my characters’ inner lives through close-up camera work. I am very clear though that, although my experience in Westminster and at Oxford has informed the novel, these are fictitious characters: I genuinely didn’t have any one politician in mind. And, although there have been allegations of sexual misconduct/harassment against current MPs, none has been charged with rape, or sexual assault, like James, so I think we’d be quite safe, in terms of libel, if this was turned into a TV drama. Having a novel adapted for the screen is something most authors dream of and I would be ecstatic if this occurred.

SarahVaughan Tue 27-Feb-18 11:53:35


I would like to ask Sarah if she had ever considered a career in criminal law?

That’s a very interesting question. My father is a retired lawyer and deputy district judge, and after graduating I very briefly toyed with the idea of doing a law conversion course. But, at the time, I doubted I had the confidence to stand up and be a good advocate, I knew I didn’t think as forensically as a sharp lawyer, and besides I just wanted to write. I am fascinated by the drama of court, and what motivates people to commit crimes – sex, greed, power, poverty – but I think I would also have found it hugely difficult to represent a defendant I thought was guilty. (No lawyer can represent one in a not guilty plea if they’ve confessed they are.) And though a courtroom drama highlights the moments of high emotion, there is an awful lot of more mundane fact checking, building of arguments, legal argument and delays in any trial. By writing a courtroom drama, I could cherry pick the interesting bits.

SarahVaughan Tue 27-Feb-18 11:55:25


I would like to ask Kate whether she based the storyline on a true event? That’s if she can answer without slandering anyone!!

I didn’t. The first thing that my publisher S&S did was get a libel lawyer to read through my manuscript and I think this would have been picked up by them then! Instead, I drew on things I’d witnessed in the House of Commons in my job as a political correspondent on the Guardian – in particular one senior politician’s willingness to lie about having had an affair. (A very different thing to the crime of rape, but something that required a certain amount of chutzpah and self-confidence, or entitlement, to pull off.)

SarahVaughan Tue 27-Feb-18 11:57:28


My question to the author is to ask where she will be setting her next novel, and does she intend to draw from her own experience again?

I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into always writing courtroom dramas and so my next novel, which I’m just editing, is partly set in a hospital and partly in a home. I’m married to an NHS surgeon, and one of my main characters – and the one who’s written from the first person – is a paediatrician who’s called to A&E at the start of the novel, so I suppose I’ve drawn on my experience of living with someone who’s working in the NHS, with all the pressures that entails. I think novelists and journalists are like magpies and filch information wherever I find something interesting.

SarahVaughan Tue 27-Feb-18 11:59:36


Could I ask the author which of her characters she most empathised/sympathised with?

I think it’s probably obvious that I sympathized with Kate the most, something I implied by writing her in the first person and the other characters in the close third person. I think she’s the most interesting character I’ve ever created and I loved her complexity. Outwardly, she’s professionally successful and confident with an erudite, almost mannered voice appropriate for declaiming in court. But inside, she’s damaged, and, like all of us, she’s flawed: she makes a very morally problematic, but I hope understandable, decision.

SarahVaughan Tue 27-Feb-18 12:02:47


The settings are as well drawn as the characters. Familiar with Oxford I could trace my steps around the episodes set there so I’m assuming the same would be true for those who know the Houses of Parliament or the Law Courts. (Does Sarah Vaughan keep maps and diagrams on hand to ensure accuracy or simply have a photographic memory). Using real settings is a risk and I wondered if Sarah had considered using more fictionalised ones instead. I appreciate the Colleges have been treated in this way but there are plenty of landmarks and rituals that hint at reality. One final question, was the story written in the sequence in which it appears or were the various threads developed first and then interwoven?

Oh, there are lots of questions in this one! First, although I knew the layout of the Houses of Parliament pretty well, having worked there on three occasions – on a six-month trainee secondment as a parliamentary reporter; then on a nine-month maternity leave as a political correspondent, and finally for almost two years as a permanent political correspondent – I bought a guide to the buildings, with a detailed layout, so that I didn’t slip up in getting these details right. I never considered using fictionalized settings because the sense of place is so important to these novels. I have cheated slightly in using alternative names for the Oxford colleges, as many previous authors have done – from Evelyn Waugh to Colin Dexter. But you’re quite right that anyone with knowledge of Oxford could work out the college with a view of the Radcliffe Camera (they might even guess that it was the college I attended.) But there has never been a James Whitehouse there, as far as I’m aware, or a Tom Southern. Finally, I wrote it in the sequence in which it appears, with a little juggling of quite where some past scenes would appear when it was finished.

SarahVaughan Tue 27-Feb-18 12:04:45


My question for the author would be, "What's next?"

I am currently finishing my next novel, which should be published next January, all being well and which explores motherhood, judgment and responsibility. It begins with a mother bringing her baby into A&E with a head injury and an explanation that isn’t quite credible. Should she be believed? Then I’m thinking up book 5 and book 6 while promoting Anatomy of a Scandal which will be translated into 19 languages and published by 21 publishers throughout 2018 and 2019. I’m currently on my way to Madrid and Barcelona to promote it and hope to be going to Italy later in the year.

GeminiJen Tue 27-Feb-18 18:45:22

Dear Sarah
Thanks so much for giving such full and thoughtful responses flowers Having loved this book, I'm so looking forward to reading more!