My Book Review: Notes on a Scandal By Zoe Heller

Title: Notes On A Scandal

Author: Zoe Heller

Published: May 2009

Publisher: Penguin

Pages: 256 Pages

Genre: Fiction

RRP: £8.99

Rating: Five Stars


About the book

From the first day that the beguiling Sheba Hart joins the staff of St George’s history teacher Barbara Covett is convinced she has found a kindred spirit. Barbara’s loyalty to her new friend is passionate and unstinting and when Sheba is discovered having an illicit affair with one of her pupils, Barbara quickly elects herself as Sheba’s chief defender. But all is not as it first seems in this dark story and, as Sheba will soon discover, a friend can be just as treacherous as any lover.

My Review


I was reading the first edition, published in 2003

This is a cleverly crafted novel. The reader is treated to an account of a deeply scandalous and troubling event recorded by the lonely protagonist Barbara Covett. It is presented as an accurate objective and balanced account. Whilst the scandal is without a doubt, a shocking revelation; a teacher’s illicit affair with a pupil, the reader is drawn into wanting to unpick the mind of the messenger, Barbara.

Told in the first person, Heller has masterfully buried into Barbara’s narrative a duplicitous nerve that twitches just enough to make you wonder all throughout whether Barbara- with all her complex psychological layers- had a master plan in ‘helping’ her friend, Sheba Hart out or, whether she had taken advantage of an opportunity lying in circumstance.

Heller’s characters are deliciously layered, acerbic and witty. Some of her turn of phrases lingers on, being perceptively sharp or beautifully funny. I absolutely loved this book. It had bridled passion woven into the underside of a tapestry so compelling to look at.

I’ve yet to see the film adaptation which I believe has had excellent reviews with some enjoying the film more, arguing that the film takes on a darker tone with a distinctively calculating Barbara.

I say, isn’t it lovely when you finish a psychologically thrilling novel to find yourself truly appreciating the level of skill in the writing; when you cannot see where the seams start and finish in a calculating protagonist and whether such dark intentions were sewn into them at all?

Highly recommended.


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