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Anatomy of a Scandal
Table of Contents
About The Book
Instant International Bestseller
“A nuanced story line perfectly in tune with our #metoo times.” —People, Book of the Week
“One of the season’s most buzzed-about thrillers.” —Bookish
Some people’s secrets are darker than others.
Sophie Whitehouse has a lovely home, two adorable children, and a handsome, successful husband. In other words, she has the “perfect” life. But everything changes the night her husband James comes home and confesses an indiscretion. Suddenly, her neat, ordered world is turned upside down. Did she ever really know the man she married?
And, as it turns out, James’s revelation is just the tip of the iceberg. He stands accused of a terrible crime. But, the truth is even more shocking than anyone ever could have thought. Is James the guilty perpetrator or an innocent victim of a toxic agenda?
In this riveting story of love, revenge, and deception, no one’s motives are pure, but some people’s secrets are much darker than others.
Reading Group Guide
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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, and 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 lovers 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 Sophie think if she knew the truth?
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. One of the themes of Anatomy of a Scandal is what is seen versus what is hidden or secret. From the simplest element of Kate putting on her robe and wig versus wearing her “civilian” clothes, to the upright, clean-cut facade of James’s public persona versus his carefully concealed past, the major characters in the novel have secret sides of themselves. In what other ways does Sarah Vaughan emphasize the dual natures of characters and situations?
2. While at Oxford University, the characters live with many traditions and within ancient buildings full of history. How is the past interwoven into the characters’ lives? How do the settings add to the atmosphere and reflect the themes of the novel?
3. Why do you think Sarah chose to have Sophie and Holly study English? How do they use their education as adults?
4. On page 112, Sophie thinks to herself, “she imagined a veneer of serenity encasing her, a hard impenetrable polish.” What does this tell you about Sophie as a character? When and how do you see this hard shell protecting her during the novel? Do you think it also harms her?
5. What does Holly’s physical transformation communicate about her emotions and internal life? What physical elements of Holly remain in her new identity as Kate?
6. When Kate sees Olivia testifying for the first time, she thinks, “She is about to reveal herself as emphatically as if she were cut to the bone” (p. 123). How does the trial reveal character traits? What subtle traits does Sarah imply through the characters’ testimonies and actions in court rather than tell us in the more explicit narration?
7. Each woman in the novel is confronted with a series of choices. Which choices do the women feel they must make? Do you think they had other options than the ones they went with?
8. When Sophie confronts James after the court has found him not guilty of raping Olivia, saying she knows that he didn’t tell the whole truth to the jury, he responds, “I told the truth, near enough. Or the truth as I saw it. . . . We all adjust the truth from time to time” (p. 312). As a group, discuss the small and large ways in which the various characters adjust the truth throughout the novel.
9. What was the impact on you as readers of realizing Kate wasn’t a reliable narrator? Did it lessen your sympathy toward her?
10. Were you surprised by Sophie’s reaction to James’s admission of perjury (even if he wouldn’t define it as such)?
11. At the end of the novel, Brian tells Kate not to worry, that James won’t “get away with it this time” (p. 338). What do you think will happen to James? Will he be held accountable?
12. After finishing the book, read the epigraph from Hilary Mantel’s historical novel Bring Up the Bodies. Her book delves into the heart of Tudor history, exploring the dramatic trial of Anne Boleyn and her lovers for adultery and treason. The quote itself comes from Thomas Cromwell; many of the men he has accused of adultery are his political enemies. By citing a moment from history, what themes does Sarah’s epigraph emphasize in her book?
13. Sarah worked for many years as a journalist for leading British publications. In what ways can you see her journalistic background informing Anatomy of a Scandal?
14. If there were one more chapter in Anatomy of a Scandal, what do you imagine would happen in it?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. There are many portrayals of political scandals in the media. As a group, watch an episode of a television show such as The Good Wife, Scandal, or House of Cards and compare it to Anatomy of a Scandal. Are there similar techniques that the scriptwriters and Sarah Vaughan use to build suspense? What literary and visual symbols are employed to enhance the novel’s and shows’ themes?
2. If your book club has not already read Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, choose it for your next read and discuss the similarities in political scandals across the eras.
3. To learn more about Sarah Vaughan, read more about her other writings, and connect with her online, visit her official website at http://www.sarahvaughanauthor.com/.
- Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (April 26, 2022)
- Length: 400 pages
- ISBN13: 9781982167608
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Raves and Reviews
"Vaughan weaves together a juicy courtroom drama set among the British elite and told from the perspectives of three characters . . . Exceptional."
– Entertainment Weekly
"A psychological thriller practically made for the #MeToo era . . . ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL is a win on every side: it has a gripping plot, but it's also an intelligent, kaleidoscopic look at the conversations surrounding sexual harassment going on today."
– Refinery 29
“Sarah Vaughan is sensational.”
– Clare Mackintosh, internationally bestselling author of I LET YOU GO
"I cared about both women—couldn't put it down . . . really, really, really, really good."
– Marian Keyes, Internationally bestselling author of THE BREAK
"Anatomy of a Scandal completely skewers the zeitgeist; cool, sharp and beautifully written."
– Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author of I FOUND YOU
"The world has gone mad for this book. I’m so excited. What an outstanding premise."
– Rosie Walsh, New York Times bestselling author of GHOSTED
"ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL is a compelling and cautionary story about how we can never truly know someone else; how even after twelve years of marriage, a wife might not know everything about her husband. Brilliant, shocking, and gripping, once I started, I couldn't stop reading."
– Claire Fuller, award-winning author of OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS and SWIMMING LESSONS
“Shocking. Compelling. Completely brilliant.”
– Eve Chase, bestselling author of BLACK RABBIT HALL
"Compelling and timely."
– Shari Lapena, internationally bestselling author of THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR
“I was hooked right from the start. So beautifully written, clever and compelling. I was gripped right up to the final page.”
– Claire Douglas, bestselling author of The Sisters and Local Girl Missing
“I enjoyed ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL immensely – a very elegant dissection of a very messy affair. Loved it.”
– Louise Candlish, author of THE SWIMMING POOL
"ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL is a stunningly compelling read--utterly gripping from the first page, beautifully written and expertly plotted. Vaughan brilliantly captures the cloistered world of Britain's elite, which is packed with suspicion, lies, and terrible betrayals. This book is a must-read for 2018--it's impossible to put down and will stay with you long afterwards."
– Sarah J. Harris, author of THE COLOR OF BEE LARKHAM'S MURDER
"A gripping dissection of deceit and desire . . . The definition of a page-turner."
– Elizabeth Day, award-winning author of THE PARTY
"ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL is superb. Bitingly truthful, intelligent, gripping. All round class act."
– Gilly Macmillan, New York Times bestselling author of WHAT SHE KNEW
"Sarah Vaughan’s Anatomy of a Scandal is just that — a gradual unearthing of long-held secrets and betrayals, followed by a front-row seat for the lives that unravel as a result. Suspenseful and shocking, centered around an important moral issue that makes it especially intense, Anatomy of a Scandal is a nuanced, highly addictive read that resonates long after the final word."
– Kimberly Belle, New York Times bestselling author of THE MARRIAGE LIE
"Deftly plotted and superbly well researched, with an eerie relevance to the current debate surrounding the attitudes to and experiences of women in Westminster, Hollywood, and beyond. An intelligent, absorbing page-turner that avoids all knee-jerk assumptions and easy answers."
– Laura Barnett, internationally bestselling author of THE VERSIONS OF US
"Sarah Vaughan writes about the heartbreaking consequences of sexual abuse and the abuse of power with real compassion as she takes us on a journey from modern day Westminster to 1990s Oxford University and back again."
– Karin Salvaloggio, critically-acclaimed author of SILENT RAIN
"You won't want to miss . . . Anatomy of a Scandal."
– USA Today
"This exhilarating novel, which switches between Sophie's, Kate's, and James' points of view, will have readers thinking about justice and truth and whether you can ever really, fully know someone."
– Real Simple "Best Books of 2018"
"It's that rare thing--a book that wholly merits the buzz it's been getting . . . a thoughtful if heartbreaking and, at times, hard-to-read exploration of the complexities of the emotions surrounding sexual violence."
– Book Riot
"An eerily well-timed novel, Anatomy of a Scandal is an incisive examination of a rape accusation from the perspective of two different women."
"For fans of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and Big Little Lies."
– Book Riot
"A close observation of character and people, their personal stories, and ultimately, their scandals."
– Mystery Scene Magazine
"Fascinating and suspenseful."
– Bluestocking Reviews
"This is an extraordinarily written tale about power, prestige, and the skeletons in the closet. Highly recommended!"
– "Dee"va with a Blog
"This exhilarating novel . . . will have readers thinking about justice and truth and whether you can ever really, fully know someone."
– Real Simple
"Moving between the present and the past, this is a timely thriller about marriage, but also about power, who wields it, and how that affects who we believe."
"Sarah Vaughan drip feeds revelations while exploring the power and privilege of political elite."
– Good Housekeeping
"When does consensual sex cross the line into rape? This is the question at the heart of this breathtaking novel . . . Lovely prose with a raw and poignant tone made this a one-sitting read!"
– Goodreads, 5 Stars
"Un-put-down-able. This has the intrigue and suspense of GONE GIRL or GIRL ON THE TRAIN, but is extra chilling because it lacks the extremism that makes those situations pure fiction. The events of this book - the political scandal, the affair, the criminal trial, the personal repercussions of every decision - could happen just as they're laid out, and that makes this book just that much more chilling."
– Goodreads, 5 Stars
"This is an outstanding book, wonderfully written and a sensitive portrayal of an all too topical issue. Deserves every one of its five stars and should be huge when it's published."
– Goodreads, 5 Stars
"Through a series of flashbacks and present-day accounts, Sarah Vaughan spins a chilling tale of appearance versus reality, lies versus the truth, and where we all fall in between."
– Goodreads, 5 Stars
"You don't know what the word 'gripping' means until you've read ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL. Wow."
– Goodreads, 5 Stars
"This engrossing, masterfully crafted thriller is a story of money, abuse of power, revenge, and the pursuit of justice. This story feels like it has been ripped from the headlines."
– Goodreads, 5 Stars
Awards and Honors
- TX Lariat Reading List
Resources and Downloads
High Resolution Images
- Book Cover Image (jpg): Anatomy of a Scandal Media Tie-In Trade Paperback 9781982167608
- Author Photo (jpg): Sarah Vaughan Photograph by Philip Mynott(0.1 MB)
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