Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis (Goodreads):Β 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.

Review:Β  This is a story that could literally be about some of the scandalous news items we hear about everyday: a married politician or man in power who has an affair, and is then accused of rape. The story revolves around Kate, the prosecutor who is convinced that James is guilty of this crime, and Sophie, the wife who refuses to believe that her loving husband could do something like this.

This is not really a thriller, in terms of pacing or plot. There is no real thrill. Yes, the reader wants to know if James was actually guilty or not. But the story is about more than just that. It is about the abuse of power that we see happening around us all the time. It is about privilege and whether that allows someone to be exempt from facing the consequences of their transgressions. And it is about the people who are affected by one person’s selfishness.

I’m really glad that the story did not focus on James’s character. Apart from a few excerpts that are flashbacks to another incident in the past, James doesn’t really get a voice. Kate and Sophie are the alternating narrators of this story, and they each have their unique struggles with this case. I really liked that the author used this method to tell the story because it shifted the focus to the people that mattered most; usually in stories like this, the novel is focused on the accused and tries to make the reader feel sympathy for them. The author does not do that here, and does not excuse James for his alleged behaviour at all. There was a lot of complexity behind the emotions that both of the women felt and I really connected with them. I could understand why they reacted the way they did. I preferred Kate’s character to Sophie’s because I generally like stronger, more powerful female roles, but both women were well developed.

The pacing of this novel is slow, and that is something that readers should be aware of. In trying to explore these different issues, there is less time for a fast-paced story. There was also more of a focus on the British law and government, so if you are not familiar with the way things work there, this might be a bit confusing to read. While the pacing made sense in terms of helping the author achieve her goals with this story, I would have preferred a more high-intensity story.

To sum it all up, this was a very close examination of the effects that a high-profile affair and rape charge can have on people. I thought the author did a really great job of considering factors like preferential treatment, justice, consent, and privilege – all of which are factors in real-life cases like these. I thought that the pacing was a bit slow and perhaps, not all of the details were needed. But it was a good read and I am happy to give it a 3.5/5 stars! I will definitely be keeping an eye out for this author!

Happy reading ~


The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I haven’t read a nonfiction novel in a long time and I don’t think I have ever blogged about it. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to broaden my reading range. I’m so glad that I chose to read this book because it was such a fantastic experience. Here is my review:

As World War I took its tool, hundreds of young women were employed at radium-dial factories to paint clock faces with a new miracle substance: radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was completely safe, the women used the “lip-painting” technique to do their job, happily surprised to find themselves glowing from head to toe by the dust that collected after a day’s work. With such a coveted job, these girls were considered to be the luckiest of all – until they all began to fall ill. As the radium poisoned their bodies, they found themselves battling not just their physical ailments but the working industry themselves in one of America’s biggest scandals.

I never expected a nonfiction novel to be so moving and gripping. I could not read this novel in one sitting; I had to take multiple pauses because it was just so emotional. I didn’t know much about this topic before I began reading. I had just thought that this was an interesting event that involved radium, a substance I’m familiar with through my course work. I got so much more than that through this book. The author creates a vivid story that looks at the lives of all of these women, full of their hopes and dreams and despairs. It shows all of the different people involved that either hindered or aided in justice being meted out. There was so much courage and strength portrayed here and the author made the reader care about every single woman mentioned in the story; they weren’t just names but real people that I could connect with. While the novel was definitely more in favor of the women than the radium companies (which totally makes sense!), I was happy to see that the author did take into account the reasons why the companies did what they did; it didn’t make me sympathetic to them on any account but it did make an attempt to give a more well-rounded picture of the scandal. This was a gripping story where I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how the women would get past each obstacle thrown in their way. The best thing about this story was the message of perseverance and hope and bravery that these women showed in every facet of their lives; they may have been dying but they wouldn’t give up on living and fighting. It made me feel so proud to see all that they accomplished even after facing such adversity. I can honestly say that I have never felt this emotionally invested in a novel before. What an amazing story and the author did such a brilliant job of making it relevant and appealing to the masses. This is definitely a nonfiction book you don’t want to miss out on!

Happy reading ~

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I read the premise of this novel, I knew that I needed to read this novel. I may not have ever read any of H.P. Lovecraft’s works but I know of his reputation as a great science fiction and horror writer. Lovecraft has inspired so many authors with his work and I thought reading a novel about him would be just fascinating, especially when it is set as a literary thriller.

Marina Willett has a problem: her husband, Charlie, is obsessed with H.P.Lovecraft. Charlie is a writer, who likes to bring the lives of various people into the limelight. And now, he has decided to do so with the life of H.P. Lovecraft, starting with the time when the famous author had lived for 2 months with a fay teenage fan named Robert Barlow. What was their relationship like? Were they friends or was there something more? Just when Charlie thinks he has got the answer, a new scandal erupts and he disappears. The police say it is a suicide but Marina knows better. And she is going to do everything in her power to learn the truth.

At first, I was drawn into the story with its detailed introduction into the life of Lovecraft and the scandal of his time spent with Barlow. While it was interesting to read about, I soon began to wonder when the story was going to kick in. At the midpoint, I started to see some direction and discover how Charlie got involved in this story. But this glimpse also vanished fairly quickly, as the author spent countless chapters recounting the experiences of Barlow, Lovecraft, Spinks, and a whole host of other characters. Pretty soon, I got lost in the details of the story – and not in a good way. I came into this story with one expectation and left this story completely clueless. I’m sure I missed something somewhere but for the life of me, I couldn’t fathom the point of this story. I felt as if nothing meaningful was ever really said throughout this entire novel, and it left me disappointed. There are some raving reviews for this novel on Goodreads, so maybe I am one of the few for whom this novel just didn’t work. If you like literary fiction and Lovecraft, then I’m sure you would enjoy this novel!

Happy reading ~

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Since I was a child, I have always been complimented on being a voracious reader. Naturally, I wanted to continue to impress others so when I was recommended this book, I seized the chance. The problem was, I was only 13. The book seemed boring and nothing made sense. So, I reluctantly gave up on it. In high school, I chanced by it again. This time, I was determined to read it and understand it so that I could at least see why so many people love this book. And this time, I finished it.

The general theme of the story is about family. But saying this would be overly simplifying it. It is a story that shows both the breakdown and the building of a family and all of the events that could lead to such things happening. The novel starts off with a scene of betrayal: Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky (Stiva) has been discovered to be unfaithful to his wife, Dolly, who now wishes to leave him. When Stiva receives a letter informing him that his sister, Anna Karenina (who is married), will be visiting him, he is relieved; she may be able to convince his wife to forgive him.
Meanwhile, Stiva’s friend, Lenin, has traveled from the countryside to Moscow to propose to Dolly’s younger sister, Kitty, whom he has loved for quite a while. However, to his dismay, he discovers that she is already in love with and is being courted by someone else, a military officer by the name of Vronsky. He decides to take his time and pursue her anyways.

At this time, Anna Karenina has arrived in Moscow and as she disembarks from the train, she happens to meet Vronsky, who is immediately smitten by her. And Anna, although remembering that she is a married woman with a son, cannot help but be drawn to Vronsky.

So begins a love affair that will shake the lives of all the individuals in the novel.

When I read it the second time in high school, I absolutely loved it. The story is so complex and there are so many characters to fall in love with. Lenin’s sincerity, Kitty’s childishness, and the selfish yet compelling love story between Vronsky and Anna will pull you in. I will admit that there were times when characters discussed politics and although it may seem unnecessary, it stands to describe the personalities and thought processes of each of the characters, which is an amazing feature of this novel. I love how believable and ALIVE these characters are; human emotions are captured beautifully in this novel.

Read this novel. Take your time and go through it thoroughly; let yourself have the full reading experience. Don’t skim, don’t miss anything. This novel is worth every minute.

Happy reading ~