Review: ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ by Sarah Vaughan

Welcome back! Today I thought I would write a review of ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ by Sarah Vaughan.

This review contains discussion of certain upsetting themes, such as rape and sexual abuse. If you are affected by these subjects, please choose a different review to read.

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. This book was all about how an alleged rape case affects everyone involved, especially the women caught up in the heart of the scandal.

The alleged rapist, James Whitehouse, is 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 told 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 grey 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. She is forever viewed as simply “James’ wife” and this 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 writing 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.

I found it particularly difficult to read when the rape victim, Olivia, was cross-examined by the barrister, or when certain violent scenes are taking place.

I think the sensitive topics in this book were handled really well, and overall I enjoyed this book. It was frustrating and worrying to read, but showed some real insight into the privileged Oxford world. I think it’s going to be turned into a TV series soon, so I look forward to hearing more about that!

Have you read ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ by Sarah Vaughan? 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 x

Picture credits here

12 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

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