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.
My Thoughts: Eager to read this story that could have been grabbed from today’s headlines, I began Anatomy of a Scandal with some idea of what would unfold.
Our alternating narrators take us from the present to the past, to a time when youth and bad choices set the tone for what would come next in the lives of these elite characters.
Setting in the past: Oxford University, with entitled students, mixed in with a handful of scholarship recipients. 1993 was a year that stood out for a number of reasons, and those secrets will stay in the past until something that happens in the present yanks them forward.
Did James rape his colleague? Or was it a misunderstanding between two lovers? What long term pattern of being “flexible” with the truth might be relevant in the present? What will Sophie realize about her husband, and how long will she stay loyal?
What, if anything, is the past connection between Kate Woodcroft, the barrister in James’s case, and James and Sophie? How will Kate handle the delicacy of her situation? What will Sophie finally acknowledge? How does the longstanding friendship between James and Tom, his boss, inform the dynamics in the present?
Issues of consent are basic to the case before the Court and to this story…while the existence of secrets, lies, and a feeling of being untouchable will ultimately change the course of all their lives, since nothing stays buried forever. 5 stars.