Anatomy of a Scandal: A Novel by Sarah VaughanAnatomy of a Scandal: A Novel by Sarah Vaughan

Anatomy of a Scandal: A Novel

bySarah Vaughan

Hardcover | January 23, 2018

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Instant International Bestseller

“A nuanced story line perfectly in tune with our #metoo times.”—People, Book of the Week

“One of the season’s most buzzed-about thrillers.”—Bookish

“A strong choice for book clubs. Former political correspondent Vaughan makes an impressive debut with this savvy, propulsive courtroom drama.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Vaughan offers gripping insight into a political scandal’s hidden machinations and the tension between justice and privilege…Absorbing, polished.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Skillfully interweaving the story of the unfolding scandal, Vaughan gradually reveals just how shockingly high the stakes are…Sinewy…engrossing, twist-filled.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

You want to believe your husband. She wants to destroy him.

An astonishingly incisive and suspenseful novel about a scandal amongst Britain’s privileged elite and the women caught up in its wake.

Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart.

Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes.

Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience? Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy.

Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. What would she think, if she knew the truth?
Title:Anatomy of a Scandal: A NovelFormat:HardcoverDimensions:400 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.1 inPublished:January 23, 2018Publisher:Atria/Emily Bestler BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1501172166

ISBN - 13:9781501172168

Reviews

Rated 1 out of 5 by from I didn't like it I found it very boring and repetitious. I didn't like the characters or the writing. Even the twist didn't do anything for me. Around the halfway mark I started skimming. This one was a big disappointment.
Date published: 2018-06-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Just Ok. I felt this book dragged, had trouble getting into it until the last 150 pages.
Date published: 2018-05-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Read Good Read. Finished in about a week.. Expected a little more from the ending but overall well written
Date published: 2018-04-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read! Very interesting. I found my attitude changing towards the characters the more I learned about their secrets.
Date published: 2018-04-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Job! This book grabs you at the start and doesn't let go.
Date published: 2018-02-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An Interesting Mystery & Character Drama Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance copy of this book - all thoughts and opinions are my own. This was a terrific read, that was incredibly poignant and thought provoking around the conversation of consent. James is a loving husband and father, a charismatic politician moving swiftly up the ranks until he finds himself accused of a horrific crime. Sophie, his wife, college sweetheart, and mother of his children, is determined to stand by him, to hold her family together through this crisis that is rocking them to their foundations as a family. Kate is the lawyer who will prosecute the case; tough, determined and focused on seeing justice handed out to those guilty of the crimes they commit. She is convinced of James' guilt and confident in her ability to ensure he pays the price. But who really knows the truth of what happened? Who can be sure of James' innocence or guilt? Soon Sophie finds herself doubting the man she has spent her life loving, and wondering how badly she may have misjudged the man she married. I really enjoyed this as a story, and found myself moving through it quickly. I loved the twists, that kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next. I will, however, say I found the style of writing somewhat distracting from the story itself - Sarah Vaughan uses an almost excessive amount of description in her writing, and I found that to pull me out of the story from time to time, as I would lose track of where the chapter was meant to be taking the story. However, once I settled into the book, I found it easier to keep pace. Overall, this was a great read, and one that I think will be popular with book clubs, as this dishes out so many meaty topics to discuss.
Date published: 2018-02-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointing thriller I want to preface my review by giving a trigger warning. This story is about a trial for rape. There were some graphic scenes that made me uncomfortable. This book really wasn’t for me. The beginning was a little hard to follow because there were so many characters that were introduced all at once. Also, the timelines jumped between when the event happened to the trial, as well as back to 1993, when some of the characters were in school at Oxford. There was a twist halfway through the story, but it fell flat for me. I had already predicted what would happen before it was stated. After that, the story changed from being about a man on trial to a woman seeking revenge. That changed the morality of the story and made justice seem less important. The ending was supposed to reveal a big event, but I didn’t think it was as controversial as implied. I was really disappointed in this thriller, because it wasn’t as shocking as I thought it would be. I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Thought it was an interesting read to pass the time. It really shows how a character deals with the scandal that happens in their life and what secrets are revealed
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent read "Anatomy of a Scandal" deals with the lives of James, a British MP and minor minister, and his wife Sophie. The book relates their experiences at Oxford in 1993 and also details their lives currently. When a scandal threatens their lives, the reader is drawn into both their past and present. I found the book riveting and couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2018-02-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Really wanted to love it but.... A look into the life of the rich and privileged who tend to get the better end of the deal in situations. An interesting topic with everything that is going on today (sexual assault allegations) but, the book read slowly and monotone for me. Still, a decent read.
Date published: 2018-02-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from "The truth is a tricky issue." There have been so many amazing releases so far this year. Sarah Vaughan's latest novel, Anatomy of a Scandal is another great read to add to your TBR list! Anatomy: "A study of the structure or internal workings of something." Scandal: "An action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage." Politician James Whitehouse reveals to his wife Sophie the affair that he has been having an affair with his beautiful young assistant. Not because he's overly penitent, but because she has accused him of rape - and that fact is about to be disclosed by the press. Kate is the prosecuting barrister assigned to the case. She specializes in sexual abuse cases. Anatomy of a Scandal is told mainly through the eyes of Sophie and Kate. We are privy to Sophie's worries, hurt, doubts and stoicism. Vaughan does an excellent job depicting her thoughts. But, I found my self hard pressed to like or empathize with her. On the other side of the coin is Kate. She has her own reasons for wanting to win this case. Those reasons become clear as the book progresses - and I was firmly in her camp. There are chapters that give us a glimpse into the past at Oxford University. And those glimpses explain much. James too has a voice. Again, Vaughan's characterization is so effective - I had a visceral reaction to James and his cavalier attitude and actions. |There are so many layers to this story - that the wealthy and privileged are treated differently in the court system, the ties of old boys' networks, schooling, tradition, breeding and political connections. What of the actual case and barristers? Is it about justice or about winning? "The truth is a tricky issue. Rightly or wrongly, adversarial advocacy is not really an inquiry into the truth." Vaughan's author note says "Anatomy of a Scandal owes much to my experience as a news reporter, political correspondent, and student reading English at Oxford...." That background makes this novel so very believable and not so far from the truth I think. The case and the verdict are of course a large focus of the book - and are very well done. But, for this reader it was the characters, their inner dialogue and decisions that kept me eagerly turning pages. It's also a bit of a slower burn. Those looking for a fast paced thriller won't find it here. Those looking for a timely novel - one that mirrors many actual headlines - will enjoy this introspective look into a scandal.
Date published: 2018-01-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from doesn't live up to the hype SUCH POTENTIAL. 2.5 star read. Ok - so this book read like an entire "House of Cards" season (and you could mix the original British version with the American version to really hit what this book was like) and an episode of "Silk" - basically, it read like it should be on television and not so much a novel. So many little subplots, which were all really really well developed and described ... but overly so. Sarah Vaughan described everything to the point that I felt like I was being ambushed with words. Her editor should have cut out paragraphs and pages - we still would have gotten the same meaning, but not as drawn out or repetitive. Kate - the barrister who reminded me of the main character from "Silk" - is prosecuting a young, handsome, charismatic Minister of the Crown, James, of raping his assistant ... a claim that is further complicated by the fact that they (James and his assistant) did have an affair, and the claim of rape was once he had called off their relationship. Kate specializes in rape and sexual assault cases, and you have to wonder, what happened to her to make her take on such difficult and emotionally trying cases? James - the young Minister, best friend to the Prime Minister, who never has to answer for his actions and assumes that everything he touches will turn to gold. Has he met his match? Or will he be able to convince a jury of his peers that what happened in the elevator between him and the victim was nothing more than an aggressive sexual encounter, consented by both parties? Sophie - James' wife and keeper of his secrets. This trial brings up memories of their past at Oxford, while also forcing her to question if her life is really what it appears to be, if her husband and their relationship really is as solid and loving as she believed it to be. And then we have the subplot of Holly - Sophie's English literature partner at Oxford, who has a mild crush on the handsome James, but is far too shy and inexperienced to ever approach him. Holly is the character that helps move along the past story-line (that implicate Sophie and James as well). All of the characters were well developed, they all had unique perspectives, were able to bring a depth to the plot - my issue is really with the fact that this novel should have been paired down. With a little more restraint it could have been a really solid mystery. Instead it just got lost in its own words.
Date published: 2018-01-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intriguing very British courtroom drama! Anatomy of a Scandal is a standalone British suspense courtroom drama. The main characters are Sophie, James and Kate. James is a successful and charismatic politician in London. Sophie is the wife who finds out that her husband has been leading a secret life. Kate is a 41 year old criminal barrister/lawyer. She is a prosecutor who mostly specializes in sexual crimes. This book is very British. I do love books that are set in London. However, the author uses a lot of very British terms. I wish that there had been an explanation of these terms. Also there was a lot to do with British legal stuff as well as British government. I would have loved more of an explanation about how those things worked. The timeline begins in December 2016, then goes back to October 2016. Then the time moves forward. Although we are also given glimpses of 1992-1993 when various characters were in university. The narrators are Kate (1st person POV), Sophie (3rd person POV), James (3rd person POV), Holly (3rd person POV). I normally prefer first person POVs. However, the third person POVs were done so well in this book that I almost didn't even notice that I wasn't reading first person. The book started off very strong for me. The storyline was very interesting. And I found what I was reading to be absolutely riveting. I have not read very many courtroom dramas recently. Usually in mysteries I read about a detective trying to solve a case. But in this book we simply have the courtroom proceedings. So we see the case play out in the courtroom. I'm not exactly sure if we are supposed to love Sophie and hate James. I found Sophie sympathetic enough in the present. But I didn't really care for her during the college flashbacks. We didn't get tons from James' POV, but I didn't hate him like I think I was supposed to. Kate was interesting. She was determined and fierce in the courtroom. I was most fascinated by her character and what led her to be the way that she is in the courtroom. There was one amazing wow moment that I did not see coming at all. I had definitely pieced together part of the story. But I was still completely amazed by what the author did. This book is about a political sex scandal. It is he said/she said. It is "who do you believe?" It is "can you get away with any crime if you are rich and charming." The story is very relevant. And I found this aspect of the story to be very thought-provoking. The book was very strong up until the point where the case was decided. Usually the end would have twists and turns leading up to an amazing ending. But the last part of the book was just okay for me. I would have preferred more action towards the end. It was still very interesting. This book was definitely more focused on the characters and less focused on lots of action. Overall though it was a good, very British court drama. Thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for allowing me to read this book.
Date published: 2018-01-23

Read from the Book

Sophie has never thought of her husband as a liar.      She knows he dissembles, yes. That’s part of his job—a will­ingness to be economical with the truth. A prerequisite, even for a government minister.      But she has never imagined he would lie to her. Or rather, that he might have a life she knows nothing about: a secret that could detonate beneath her lovingly maintained world and blow it apart forever.      Watching him that Friday, as he leaves to take the children to school, she feels a stab of love so fierce she pauses on the stairs just to drink in the tableau of the three of them together. They are framed in the doorway, James turning to call good­bye, left arm raised in that politician’s wave she used to mock but which now seems second nature, right hand cradling Finn’s head. Their son—fringe falling in his eyes, socks bagging round his ankles—scuffs at the tiles, reluctant, as ever, to go. His elder sister, Emily, ducks through the doorway: age nine, determined not to be late. “Well, bye, then,” her husband calls, and the autumn sun catches the top of his still-boyish crop, illuminating him with a halo, highlighting his six-foot-three frame.      “Bye, Mum,” her daughter shouts, as she runs down the steps.      “Bye, Mummy.” Finn, thrown by the change to his routine— his father taking them to school for once—juts out his bottom lip and flushes red.      “Come on, little man.” James steers him through the door: competent, authoritative even, and she almost resents the fact that she still finds this attractive, commanding. Then he smiles down at his boy and his entire face softens. Finn is his weak spot. “You know you’ll enjoy it when you get there.”      He slips his arm over his son’s shoulders and guides him down their neat, West London garden, with its sculpted bay trees standing like sentinels and its path fringed with lavender, away from her and out down the street.     My family, she thinks, watching the perfect-looking trio go—her girl racing ahead to embrace the day, all skinny legs and swishing ponytail, her boy slipping his hand into his father’s and looking up at him with that unashamed adoration that comes with being six. The similarity between man and boy—for Finn is a miniaturized version of his father—only magnifies her love. I have a beautiful boy and a beautiful man, she thinks, as she watches James’s broad shoulders—a one-time rower’s shoulders—and waits, more in hope than expectation, for him to look back and smile at her, for she has never managed to grow immune to his charisma. Of course he doesn’t and she watches as they slip out of sight. The most precious people in her world. That world crumbles at 8:43 p.m. James is late. She should have known he would be. It is an alternate Friday: one in which he is holding a constituency meeting, deep in the Surrey countryside, in a brightly lit village hall.      When he had first been elected, they had stayed there every weekend: decamping to a cold, damp cottage that had never quite felt like home, despite their extensive renovations. One election on, and it was a relief to give up the pretense that Thurlsdon was where they wanted to spend half their week. Lovely in the sum­mer months, yes, but bleak in winter, when she would stare out at the bare trees fringing their hamlet garden and try to placate their urban children, who wanted the bustle and distraction of their real, North Kensington home.      They venture there once a month now, and James schleps down for a meeting in the intervening fortnight. Two hours on a Friday afternoon; he promised to leave by six.      He has a driver now that he is junior minister and should have been back by seven thirty—traffic permitting. They are sup­posed to be going to friends’ for a kitchen supper. Well, she says friends. Matt Frisk is another junior minister—aggressively ambitious in a way that doesn’t sit well with their set, where success is understood as inevitable but naked ambition considered vulgar. But he and Ellie are near neighbors and she couldn’t easily put them off again.      Sophie had said they would be there by eight fifteen. It was ten past now, so where was he? The October evening crept against the sash windows: black softened by the glow of the street lamps, autumn stealing in. She loves this time of year. It reminds her of fresh starts, running through the leaves in Christ Church Meadows as a fresher, giddy at the thought of new worlds opening up to her. Since having children, it has been a time to nest; to cosset with log fires, roast chestnuts, take brisk, crisp walks, and make game casseroles. But now, the autumn night was taut with apprehension. Footsteps tottered down the pavement and a woman’s laugh rang out, flirtatious. A deeper voice murmured. Not James’s. The footsteps rose and fell, died away.      She pressed redial. His mobile rang then clicked to voicemail. She jabbed the sleek face of her phone—rattled at her loss of cus­tomary self-control. Dread tightened her stomach and for a mo­ment she was back in the chill lodge of her Oxford college, the wind whistling through the quad, as she waited for the pay phone to ring. The look of sympathy from a college porter. The chill fear—so intense in that last week of her first summer term—that something still more terrible was about to happen. Age nineteen and willing him to call, even then.      Eight fourteen. She tried again, hating herself for doing it. His phone clicked straight through to voicemail. She plucked at a piece of imaginary lint, rearranged her friendship bracelets, and glanced critically at her nails—neatly filed, unvarnished, unlike Ellie’s gleaming gelled slicks.      Footsteps on the stairs. A child’s voice. “Is Daddy back?”      “No, go back to bed.” Her tone came out harsher than she intended.      Emily stared, one eyebrow raised.      “Just climb back into bed, sweetheart,” she added, her voice softening as she chased her daughter up the stairs, heart quicken­ing as she turned the corner and bundled her under the covers. “You should be settling down, now. He won’t be long.”      “Can he come and say goodnight when he gets in?” Emily pouted, impossibly pretty.      “Well, we’re going out, but if you’re still awake . . .”      “I will be.” Her daughter’s determination—the set of her jaw, the implacable self-belief—marked her out as her father’s daugh­ter.      “Then I’m sure he’ll come up.”      Sophie gave her a quick peck on the forehead, to curb further arguments, and tucked the duvet around her. “I don’t want you out of bed again, though. Understand? Cristina’s babysitting just like normal. I’ll send Daddy up when he gets back.” Eight seventeen. She forced herself not to ring his number. She has never been the sort of wife who behaves like a stalker, but there was something about this complete silence that chilled her. It just wasn’t like him. She imagined him stuck on the M25, working his way through his papers in the back of his car. He would call, text, send an email, not leave her waiting—the au pair hanging around the kitchen, keen for them to disap­pear so that she can curl up on the sofa and have the house to herself; Sophie’s carefully touched-up face becoming a little less perfect; the flowers bought for the Frisks wilting in their wrap­ping on the table in the hall. Eight twenty-one. She would call the Frisks at half past. But that deadline came and still she didn’t ring. Eight thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven. Aware that it was bad form to do so, at eight forty she sent Ellie Frisk a brief, apologetic text explain­ing that something had cropped up in the constituency and they were terribly sorry but they wouldn’t be able to make it, after all.      The Times had a piece on the Islamic State by Will Stanhope but the words of her old college contemporary washed over her. It might as well be a story about dinosaur astronauts, read to Finn, to the extent to which it engaged her. Every part of her was attuned to one thing.      And there it is. The sound of his key in the door. A scrape and then a hiss as the heavy oak eases open. The sound of his footsteps: slower than normal, not his usual brisk, assertive tread. Then the thud of his red box being put down, the weight of responsibility abandoned for a while—as glorious a sound, on a Friday night, as the slosh of dry white wine being poured from a bottle. The jangle of keys on the hall table. And then silence again. “James?” She comes into the hall.      His beautiful face is grey, his smile taut and not reaching his eyes, where his light crow’s feet seemed deeper than usual.      “You’d better cancel the Frisks.”      “I have done.”      He shrugs off his coat and hangs it up carefully, averting his face.      She pauses then slips her arms around his waist—his honed waist that deepens to form a V, like the trunk of a sapling that burgeons outwards—but he reaches back and gently eases them away.      “James?” The cold in the pit of her stomach flares.      “Is Cristina here?”      “Yes.”      “Well, send her to her room, will you? We need to talk in private.”      “Right.” Her heart flutters as she hears her voice come out clipped.      He gives her another tight smile, and a note of impatience creeps into his voice, as if she is a disobliging child, or perhaps, a tardy civil servant. “Can you do it now, please, Sophie?”      She stares back at him, not recognizing his mood—so differ­ent to what she had expected.      He massages his forehead with firm, long fingers, and his green eyes close briefly, the lashes—disarmingly long—kissing his cheeks. Then, his eyes flash open, and the look he gives her is the one Finn gives when he is trying to preempt a telling off and plead forgiveness. It’s the look James gave her twenty-three years ago be­fore confessing to the crisis that had threatened to overwhelm him, that had caused them to split up, that still sometimes causes her to shiver, and that she fears is about to rear its head again. “I’m sorry, Soph. So sorry.” And it is as if he is carrying not just the weight of his job—undersecretary of state for countering extremism—but responsibility for the entire government.      “I’ve fucked up big time.” Her name was Olivia Lytton—though Sophie had always just thought of her as James’s parliamentary researcher—five foot ten, twenty-eight, blonde, well connected, confident, ambitious.      “I expect she’ll be dubbed the blonde bombshell.” She tries for acerbic, but her voice just comes out as shrill.      The affair had been going on for five months, and he had broken it off a week ago, just after the party conference.      “It meant nothing,” James says, head in hands, no pretense that he is anything other than penitent. He leans back, wrinkling his nose as he trots out another cliché. “It was just sex, and I was flattered.”      She swallows, rage pushing against her chest, barely contain-able. “Well, that’s OK then.”      His eyes darken as he takes in her pain.      “There was nothing wrong with that part of us. You know that.” He can usually read her so clearly: a skill honed over two decades, one of the things that binds them so closely. “I just made a foolish mistake.” She waits, poised on the sofa opposite, for her anger to subside sufficiently for her to speak civilly, or for him to bridge the distance between them. To reach out a tentative hand, or at least offer a smile.      But he is rooted there: head bowed, elbows on knees, fin­gers touching as if in prayer. At first, she despises this show of sanctimony—a Blairite trope, the penitent politician—and then she softens as his shoulders shake, just the once, not with a sob but with a sigh. For a moment, she sees her mother as her charm­ing, rakish father confessed to yet another “indiscretion.” Ginny’s dry resignation, and then the quickly suppressed flash of pain in her marine-blue eyes.      Perhaps this is what all husbands do? Sorrow surges, then anger. It shouldn’t be like this. Their marriage is different. Founded on love and trust and a sex life that she does her very best to maintain.      She has made compromises in her life, and God knows, she took a huge leap of faith when they got back together. But the one certainty was that their relationship is solid. Her vision be­gins to blur, her gaze filming with tears. He looks up and catches her eye—and she wishes he hadn’t.      “There’s something else,” he says. Of course he wouldn’t confess to an affair without a reason.      “Is she pregnant?” The words—ugly but necessary—discolor the space between them.      “No, of course not.” She feels herself relax a little. No half-sibling for Emily and Finn. No proof of a liaison. No need to share him in any other way.      And then he looks up with a grimace. Her nails bite into her palm in sharp crescents, and she sees that her knuckles are ivory pearls thrusting through the red of her skin.      What could be worse than some other woman having his child, or perhaps choosing to abort his child? Other people knowing. The affair, a particularly juicy piece of gossip, dropped into the ear of a favored few in the Commons tea rooms until it becomes general knowledge. Who knows? His colleagues? The PM? Other MPs’ wives? What about Ellie? She imagines Ellie’s silly, plump face alight with barely suppressed pity. Perhaps she already knows and recognized her lie of a text.      Sophie forces herself to breathe deeply. They can deal with this; move beyond it. They have experienced far worse, haven’t they? There is no crime in having a quick fling. It can be brushed over, quickly forgotten, absorbed. And then James says something that takes this to a more damaging, corrosive level that strikes her in the solar plexus hard as she contemplates a scenario so terrible that, fool that she is, she hadn’t quite seen coming.      “The story’s about to break.”

Editorial Reviews

"This engrossing, masterfully crafted thriller is a story of money, abuse of power, revenge, and the pursuit of justice. This story feels like it has been ripped from the headlines."