Book Review – Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

When I was trying to get back into reading and reviewing a few months ago, I picked up this book from my shelf, because I had an old ARC of it and had been told how great of a book it was. (Thanks to the publisher for the ARC about two years ago, by the way!) A thriller of the likes of Gillian Flynn, I’d been led to believe. Well. I disagree, but I’ll get into that.

In Anatomy of a Scandal, James Whitehouse is a rising politician who is friends with the Prime Minister – his future is right in front of him, just waiting for him to claim it. He’s got a cute little family with his wife, Sophie, whom he knew from his time at Oxford. Everything seems happy and nearly perfect, even though Sophie thinks her life is a little less than what she’d hoped.

But then the scandal breaks. James’ researcher, Olivia, has revealed that they’d been having an affair for several months. And not only that – but she accuses him of rape. Sophie’s world starts to fall apart, but James is ever certain that he’ll beat the charge. Sure, he’s guilty of adultry, he says! But not rape – she was into it! *gags*

And then we have Kate Woodcroft, the lawyer to is going to prosecute the case against James. It’s personal for her, but it takes a long time before we find out why, before we find out what secrets she holds. She wants to bring James Whitehouse down.

Finally, we have the point of view of Holly, a classmate of Sophie and James’ from Oxford, who tells another story, a story of knowing the two of them way back when, back before he was a politician and she was the doting, loyal wife. Back before, when there were other secrets to keep.

Back when something bad happened. And then in the present, when everything could come crashing down around them all.


3 Things I Loved

*Ugh, this is hard, because I really didn’t like this book!*

  1. Kate. Okay, so she doesn’t seem to be a very good lawyer, but I liked how intrepid she was. I liked her hard edges. She’s a woman who has made it on the strength of her own will. That’s admirable.
  2. Ali. Kate’s best friend, Ali, has been living a very different destiny than Kate, but it’s easy to see how they’ve always supported each other and have each other’s best interests at heart.
  3. Olivia. Damn, this woman is strong. She KNEW she’d be ridiculed for accusing James Whitehouse of rape. She knew she’d be ridiculed simply for admitted she had an affair with him! But she did it anyway. All the people out there – and I’ve heard this said to my face, so no one can tell me it’s not real – who believe that women come forward for their own 15 minutes of fame – you’re D E L U S I O N A L. It’s a leap of blind, terrifying faith to tell people your deepest shame, to have to relive it for the masses. Olivia is the strongest fucking person in this whole book.

Dislikes/Problematic Content

I honestly don’t even know where to begin. I know what this book was trying to do, and it’s hard to convey my deep disappointment without giving away any spoilers. But I’ll try.

Really, everything starts and ends with James. I wanted to punch this dude in the face from the first time he appeared on the page. He was haughty and selfish and a terribly husband and father. Sophie even said, in her POV chapter at the very beginning of the book, that she wasn’t sure she was happy with him, but she knew she couldn’t leave. Everyone saw them as happy, you see. I hated this guy. It wasn’t surprised when it was revealed that he cheated on his wife, and then was even less shocked when he was accused of rape. And then, when his excuse was “oh, it was consensual!” – FUCK THAT NOISE. Any man who uses that as an excuse is either a) very very obtuse, or b) knows it was fucking rape and thinks he’s above reproach. Honestly, James was somehow both. But the most disappointing part of this entire book was that James got POV chapters. They were in the past, but Jesus Christ, NOBODY WANTED TO HEAR FROM HIM. This whole book would have been told from women’s POVs had he not been given chapters. Put Sophie in the past! Let us listen to her some more. And then this BIG SCANDAL that the PM was hiding with James? Ugh, what a DISAPPOINTMENT.

There were other, small things. The author feels the need to have the women describe their own bodies, for some reason? Gross. Kate is kind of a terrible lawyer? What a waste. Holly is timid, and it’s borderline annoying to read her words because it’s so exaggerated. And Sophie… she was such a mean girl until this scandal fell into her life. A lot of that rests on the shoulders of fucking James, for sure. But STILL. I was just… so disappointed with this entire book. Go back up and read that summary! It sounds great! But the execution fell way below hopes and expectations.


A reminder of the rating scale:

  • Red = DNF, I hated everything
  • Orange = Ugh, no thank you
  • Yellow = I mean, I’ve read worse, but there were problems
  • Green = This was good! 
  • Blue = Oh my gosh, I loved this book!
  • Purple = This is the unicorn of books and I will be rereading it until the binding falls apart and EVERYONE should be reading it!

I don’t think I’ve finished a book I disliked this much since I started this blog, truly. I hated it. I wanted to throw it out the window a la Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook when I was done. I pushed myself to finish because I wanted to know what the BIG SECRET was. And it was such a letdown! So anyway, this might be a first for the blog – I’m giving Anatomy of a Scandal an ORANGE rating. I know some people liked it. I did not. *shrug*

Thank you so very much to the publisher for that advanced copy several years ago that it took me forever to get to. I’ll probably end up donating it (and a bunch of other books!) once I settle stateside, because I do think there is a population of people who would enjoy this book. I’m just not one of them.

Has anyone else read this one? What did you think?

Happy reading!

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