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. Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. What would she think, if she knew the truth?
Anatomy of A Scandal owes much of its success to the harassment scandals rocking various industries at the moment which has made the book’s subject matter very topical, however I found it rather disappointing. The narrative is told from the point of view of several characters who offer differing perspectives of the events of the book which leaves the reader in the position of trying to establish who is telling the truth. As the plot unfolds, it becomes obvious James has more than one skeleton in his closet and it takes a while before the pieces all start to fall into place.
The story is split between the events of the present day and those of the past, however not all the narrators are involved in both. The majority of the narration in the present is given over to Kate and Sophie, with minimal input from James, while the narrative of the past is given to someone who initially seems unrelated to the present. Strangely enough, while the alleged rape scene is told from James’s point of view, we only ever hear the mistress’s via her testimony in court and her story is ripped to shreds by the female defence attorney. While the narratives are obviously meant to have questions marks over them, I found them far too one-sided at crucial points to be able to assess the situation fairly.
Kate spends a great deal of time explaining the processes behind a trial with everything being presented in such a way as to manipulate the jury into giving a verdict in favour of whichever attorney plays the game better. Some of Kate’s actions are deeply unethical and I’m not sure if we are meant to excuse her when the truth of her past comes to light but it is hard when you consider the outcome of the trial itself was in jeopardy and could’ve easily been dismissed as a mistrial. I’m not going to reveal the verdict but the outcome is predictable based on the evidence presented.
Once the trial is concluded, the characters deal with the aftermath but I had completely lost interest by this point and found myself not really caring about them. The concluding chapters build towards Sophie realising her marriage is beyond salvaging and since she is no longer willing to play the part of the trophy wife, she has some difficult decisions to make. A carefully placed tip in the ear of a journalist sets in motion a chain of events that strike at the heart of government itself which sounds a lot more interesting than the story we actually got.