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Book Review: ‘Anatomy Of A Scandal’ by Sarah Vaughan

Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m posting my review of Sarah Vaughan’s courtroom drama, ‘Anatomy Of A Scandal’. This is a fantastic book which is guaranteed to make a real impact on the reader! Keep reading to discover my thoughts…



anatomy of a scandal

A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it. 

Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.

** TRIGGER WARNING ** This book is centered around a rape trial in court, so it should hardly be surprising that it contains repeated references to sexual assault and rape, and all the details that come with that. It also discusses the theme of physical and emotional abuse. Contains references to alcoholism and drug use.


‘Anatomy Of A Scandal’ was released in January 2018, and is Sarah Vaughan’s third novel. It follows on from ‘The Art Of Baking Blind’ (2014) and ‘The Farm At The Edge Of The World’ (2016). Vaughan studied English at Oxford university and then went on to become a journalist, before beginning to write fiction.

The novel has received so many positive reviews, from authors such as Clare Mackintosh: “The best courtroom drama I’ve read since Apple Tree Yard“, Claire Douglas: “So beautifully written, clever and compelling”, Liz Nugent: “A very clever and intriguing page-turner about rape culture”, Emma Curtis: “A strong plot combined with complex characters and brilliant writing”, Gillian McAllister: “Anatomy Of A Scandal is a triumph”, Louise Candlish: “Intelligent, subtle and thought-provoking” and Tammy Cohen: “A whip-smart, grown-up thriller with a hugely relevant moral question at its core”.

‘Anatomy Of A Scandal’ is a very powerful book, all about rape culture and power. Politician and public figure James stands accused of raping his colleague, but he defends that this isn’t true. Prosecuting barrister Kate is determined to bring James down and make him pay for his crime. But how will the story end?

The narrative is mainly told from the first-person perspective of Kate (the prosecuting barrister) and the third-person perspective of Sophie (James’ wife) in the present day. The narrative also jumps back in time to almost 20 years previously, in which we hear from the likes of Holly. This variety allows for a more holistic approach to the story, as the reader is able to learn a lot about all of the characters.The narrative is fairly simple to follow, but is still very effective.

Kate is definitely my favourite character in the book. She’s very ambitious and career-driven, working long hours and dedicating lots of time and effort to her cases. She specialises in sexual assault and rape cases, and is determined to bring those down who commit such terrible crimes. She puts on a brave face and does not let her emotions show, although deep down she is truly suffering with some personal issues. Every so often, the reader gets a glimpse of the “real” Kate, the Kate who is lonely, sad, angry and afraid. She’s a very complex character, and there’s so much more to her than what you see on the surface. I felt a great deal of sympathy towards her, and really wished I could just give her a hug!

Sophie is a troubling character at first, as her love for her husband is so strong that it clouds all reasonable judgement. She stands by her husband and refuses to believe that he could be the perpetrator of such a horrific crime – after all, he’s always treated her well, and they have a fantastic life together with two beautiful children. When she discovers that James has been publicly unfaithful, she’s embarrassed and hurt, but she’s willing to put these feelings aside and focus on creating a calm home environment for the sake of her children. Perhaps a little too late, she finally realises the truth, and discovers that perhaps James isn’t the person she thought he was. I found Sophie to be extremely naive and sometimes annoying, but I’m sure this is the author’s intention.

James is a well-respected politician and public figure, who embarks on a reckless affair with his colleague Olivia. The story breaks and soon everybody knows about all the details of his very public affair – and just days later, he is arrested for raping Olivia. James is clearly very greedy and is motivated by power and wealth, with little respect or care for those around him. He’s always worked hard and has achieved everything he thought he wanted in life, but a loving wife and children is clearly not enough for him. There’s much more to James than meets the surface though, and as we delve into his past, it soon becomes clear that many secrets are buried beneath the surface.

Other characters in the novel include: Olivia (James’ accuser), Holly and other various past friends from Oxford university, members of the jury, the judge, James’ colleagues and more. There’s a fairly small cast of characters, making the novel easy to follow.

** TRIGGER WARNING ** (I apologise for any spoilers here.) This novel is a true exploration into rape culture and power, and the novel goes into incredible detail about the crime itself and the questions surrounding it. The novel makes repeated references to the rape in question, including detailed discussions based around aspects such as the victim’s clothing, physical evidence and their sexual relationship history. It comes to light that the perpetrator has also committed other crimes, so the theme of domestic violence, including physical and emotional abuse, is explored. The novel also contains repeated references to substance abuse, including alcoholism and drug use. If any of these issues may trigger a negative response, I suggest you skip this book.

As the case drags on in court, more and more details come to light, and it becomes very difficult to predict the jury’s outcome decision. The atmosphere becomes much more tense, and as a reader I experienced a real sense of claustrophobia – I felt like I was in that courtroom along with everybody else, and I couldn’t escape or put the book down. All that the reader can do is pray that the jury make the right decision – but what if they don’t?

So, let’s talk about the ending! There’s two endings here that I’d like to discuss: the ending to the case, and the ending of the book. The jury reaches their verdict and the case is closed about two thirds of the way through the book. It’s very shocking, and I definitely didn’t anticipate that outcome! But that’s not the end of the story… The novel then begins to delve deep into the past in which the characters’ attended Oxford university. The truth about the characters’ past lives are revealed, which sheds light on the events of the present. I was really satisfied with the way the book ended – it was a true rollercoaster ride, but there’s a real sense of hope at the end of the book.

Overall, I’d highly recommend this novel to those of you who like courtroom dramas, particularly those of you who may be interested in the topic of rape culture. This book really made an impact on me, and I certainly won’t be forgetting it in a hurry! With fantastic characters, a well-constructed plot and a shocking ending, this book has everything I look for! I will say that it was extremely difficult and uncomfortable to read at times, but I’m really glad I saw it through. An utterly compelling read!









Happy reading 🙂


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