Review: ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ by Sarah Vaughan

Welcome back! I promised a more modern book review, so here we go 🙂 my boyfriend lent me this one, and I really enjoyed it.

Despite the central hard-hitting themes, such as sexual abuse, Vaughan managed to navigate the book so that it was both interesting and relatively easy-to-read, and this book was all about the way in which an alleged rape case affects everyone involved, especially the women caught up in the heart of the scandal.

The alleged rapist, James Whitehouse, was a member of the notorious Libertines (an elite group at Oxford with a strong sense of self-entitlement) and when the book starts he is now a member of government, and a close friend of the Prime Minister, who was also part of this elite group.

James has been accused of raping his assistant, with whom he was in a secret relationship, as he is also a “family man”, married to Sophie Whitehouse.

The book is set from various perspectives: James, his wife Sophie, Kate (the barrister prosecuting James), Holly (a young girl who encountered James during this Oxford years) and Ali, Kate’s friend from University.

I can’t say too much about the book as it needs to be read in order to fully appreciate the twists and turns that Vaughan takes, but this is a really interesting story about the gray areas in cases as complex as rape, and the ethics and morals of those within the legal profession.

The themes of class and belonging, particularly from Holly’s point of view, were also really interesting, and stories from the Libertines ring true in Oxbridge circles today.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the way in which Vaughan uses the perspectives of the different women in order to show how this case affected their lives.

While on the surface Sophie may have come across as a shallow, middle class Oxford graduate, I came to really sympathise with her character, and the way in which she is forever viewed as simply “James’ wife” is a feeling many women experience.

I also enjoyed Holly’s perspective, and viewing the elite Oxford society through her eyes was really interesting, as she was both mesmerised and appalled by their activities.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was, because of its nature, some parts were hard to read. I think Vaughan’s style was good in that she told the narrative in a straight forward, easy-to-read way, but some parts of it were a little more difficult to read than others, such as when Olivia is being cross-examined by the barrister, or when certain violent scenes are taking place.

But in terms of how much more graphic it could have been I think the sensitive topics were handled well, and overall I enjoyed this book, as frustrating and worrying as it was.

Have you read this book? Do you sometimes find it hard to read more sensitive material? Would you consider giving this one a go? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

Happy reading!

Picture credits here

13 thoughts

  1. Great review! I feel like this title is familiar but I’m not sure from where. It sounds like a very interesting read, although I can imagine it being quite heavy and difficult to read at times. I think I’ll add it to my TBR!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t heard of this one before but it sounds like a really engaging read. It’s great that what starts off as a somewhat shallow character is someone you can connect with. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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