Publication: Simon & Schuster UK on 11 Jan. 2018
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.
Confession time. I have had this book on my TBR pile for quite a while and was aware that it was getting some serious plaudits from my colleague reviewers and others. But nothing prepared me for how much I was going to love this book.
It has everything I look for in a book. Sarah Vaughan is an author who knows her subjects and can write convincingly and authentically – in this case about Oxford University life, Westminster politics and criminal law. Characters you can put a face to and in some cases identify with, and in other cases can quite understand how they came to take the stances that they do. The author is careful to stress that this is a work of fiction throughout, but there are times when you just can’t help but put faces against some of the characters here, you feel that you know them so well.
This is a story of privilege and the elite and of what happens when they meet justice head on.
James Whitehouse is a junior Minister in the Home Office and as a close confidant of the Prime Minister, he is tipped for high office. His wife, Sophie, whom he met at University, is the backbone of his political career; supporting him, looking after their two children, attending political functions and generally ensuring that he can cruise through life unhampered by domestic concerns.
More than that, though, she loves him and always has. Theirs is a healthy relationship and she feels blessed to be in this marriage.
Kate Woodcroft Q.C. is a successful barrister. Ambitious and driven, she mainly prosecutes sexual crimes, wanting to be seen to be on the side of truth and the underdog. She’s hoping to be one of the youngest barristers to be offered a judgeship, and coming out of an unsuccessful case – one of the few she has lost recently, she feels certain that she has been handed the case that could make her career, and she is convinced that James is guilty.
For James Whitehouse, this may not be the hardest test he has faced, but it is certainly the most public. For James has to come home and tell Sophie that he has been having an affair with his Parliamentary researcher, Olivia and that the story is about to break in the UK’s most popular and most pernicious tabloid.
To make matters worse, in less than a fortnight, James finds himself charged with rape, following a brief resumption of sexual activity between him and Olivia on one occasion following his unceremonious dumping of her as his lover.
As you might expect, the legal case hinges on the issues of consent, but it is also about the lies we tell ourselves, the battle between the privileged and the not so privileged, and about how to win an argument, irrespective of the truth.
For Sophie, it is also about how well she knows her husband and by extension, how well she knows herself, as her life is slowly ripped apart under the heavy scrutiny of the press and the pressure from Government aides.
Anatomy of a Scandal is a brilliantly written, well plotted and incredibly good book. I was completely absorbed by it, never less than gripped and I want to shout from the rooftops how good I think it is.
About Sarah Vaughan
Sarah is a novelist and journalist who has always wanted to write fiction. Her first novel, The Art of Baking Blind, was published in 2014 by Hodder, and nine other countries. The Farm at the Edge of the World, followed in 2016, and in 2017 became a bestseller in France. After Anatomy of a Scandal, she is now completing another novel in a similar vein – exploring what happens when women’s lives are touched by darkness or crime.
Before writing novels, she was a journalist, writing under the byline Sarah Hall. After journalism college and work at The Times, she trained with the Press Association and spent 11 years on The Guardian as a news reporter, health correspondent and political correspondent. She left after having her second baby and began to freelance.
Long before that, she read English at Brasenose College, Oxford. Reading Beowulf may not have helped her become a novelist but reading and thinking about writing for three years undoubtedly did. She now lives just outside Cambridge with her husband, two young children, geriatric cat and puppy. When she is not writing, she loves to walk, run, read.