Stars: Ben Radcliffe, Josette Simon, Jonathan Coy
An astonishingly incisive and suspenseful novel about a Anatomy of a scandal 2022 between Britain’s privileged elite and the women caught in their wake. Sophie’s husband, James, is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he is accused of a terrible crime. Convinced that he is innocent, Sophie is desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to tear them apart.
Rape has become such a standard feature of crime novels that a literary award was launched last month for the best thriller “in which no woman is beaten, harassed, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.” I felt a tired recognition when I read about the Staunch Prize; I could build a fortress out of all the rape thrillers I get mailed every month. You know the types: for the men, something about a drunken, hardened detective who solves a gruesome rape and murder of a young blonde woman; for women, a diaphanous black cover, “Girl” or lately, “Woman” in the title, perhaps an unreliable narrator, possibly an abusive boyfriend. They accumulate, and with them, a kind of exhaustion. “Reading something fun?” my friends will joke
But within the world of books and television, where rape is a central plot point, there is a chasm between works that nuance it and those that derive a dark energy from it, that try to make it part of the emotion. . The difference is easy to see. Think of the thinly veiled eroticism of the rape scenes in Game of Thrones: the rooms lined with gold lights, the hideous, charged camera lingering on the women’s quivering mouths and full eyes. Perhaps the goal should not be to stop writing about it, but to make it better.
Anatomy of a Scandal 2022 is, in many ways, standard mid-level crime fiction indicated by that familiar diaphanous black cover: female lead with a hidden past, clear but not elegant writing, and persistent but smooth suspense. But Sarah Vaughan, who was previously a reporter at The Guardian, brings sustained attention and care to the subject ensuring that rape is never played on emotion, but instead delves into complicated issues of consent and criminality.
The plot centers on three women: Kate is an emotionally detached lawyer who prosecutes sex offenders. Her prey is James Whitehouse, a politician accused of rape by Olivia, her young investigator and former lover. Meanwhile, her privileged wife Sophie, who until then had been “one whose life has been as bright and solidly precious as a thick bar of gold,” has to decide who she believes.
We are familiar with the standard masked rapist from fiction. As Kate notes at one point, “Juries are eager to convict the predatory rapist, the archetypal boogeyman in a dark alley, but when it comes to relationship rape, they really prefer not to know, thank you very much.” This is just beginning to change, and Vaughan’s novel is interesting because it introduces a serial rapist who doesn’t seem to know she is one. Also, her victims had been attracted to him and consented (or would have) to have sex under other circumstances, meaning that Anatomy of a Scandal balances on the edge of our changing attitudes toward rape.
One of the novel’s other rich tensions is the relationship between Kate and Sophie, who knew each other when they were students. Lesser authors could have pitted these women against each other, but Vaughan does something carefully subversive in her place. In an early flashback to Kate and Sophie’s college days, we are presented with a tableau of three people in an Oxford professor’s office: Sophie is the cute B student who crosses and uncrosses her legs for the professor, Kate is the girl smart and chubby Doc Martens feels ignored, and the don is the renowned scholar sitting there staring at Sophie’s legs.
Anatomy of a Scandal 2022 is full of quietly revealing choices like that, showing an empathetic and careful mind at work. “I am tired of man’s inhumanity to man.” Kate thinks. Or rather, her lack of humanity towards women and children. The reason rape saturates books, tv show review, and movies is that women are beaten, harassed, sexually exploited, raped, and murdered in real life.
Watch Anatomy of a Scandal Official Trailer: