Book Review: Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
Published January 2018
Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Anatomy of a Scandal is a look at a conflicted barrister, a golden boy, and a wife in denial.
Kate is a barrister (British lawyer who specializes in advocacy), prosecuting cases with vim, vigor, and very little personal investment other than winning and justice. The victims are not necessarily the motivators for her efforts. Rather, it’s the cause and case itself for which she cares.
But then Kate lands a case that feels a lot more personal. A man named James is accused of rape, but it’s a tricky case. He had been engaged in a consensual affair with a coworker, but, she accuses, he took it too far one night when the consent wasn’t granted.
Did he do it? Is Kate prosecuting the case too zealously out of a misguided personal vendetta? Can his lovely and submissive wife, Sophie, forgive James for the affair, much less accused rape? Is his mistress merely angry that the affair ended?
Cases like these are not easy ones to prosecute, even with clear evidence. In this case, it comes down the word of a scorned mistress against that of a publicly admired, handsome, respected man.
We find out relatively early what really happened. Concurrently, we examine the backstories for Kate, James, and his wife. They each have pasts that shape their reactions to current events.
Anatomy of a Scandal shows the power of doubt.
When someone is told “We don’t believe you,” it leads to far-reaching and long-lasting consequences. It’s especially relevant in this #metoo era, in which women are empowered to come forward, but still must face the doubt and public rehashing of private traumas.
The plot is strong and important here, with clear explanations of events and the conflict. But the meat of the story exists within the characters themselves.
Strong and stoic Kate is deeply and emotionally invested in the case. Unapologetic and entitled James just wants to get back to life as usual. Milquetoast Sophie must decide whether to continue the example learned from her mother of staying in a marriage with a cheating but prominent husband, or strike out on her own; a terrifying concept.
This mix of character development and plot makes for a satisfying read, one that shows how the actions of one can lead to consequences for many.