Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Notes on a Scandal . . .

The title is so scintillating as to be a complete let down but I was pleasantly surprised by this very interesting novel. What was She Thinking?:Notes on a Scandal is Zoe Heller's second novel and while I'm not running off to read her first, I do have to say that I enjoyed this book tremendously. How it's described:
Barbara Covett, a sixtyish history teacher, is the kind of unmarried-woman-with-cat whose female friends sooner or later decide she is "too intense." Thus when a beautiful new pottery teacher, Sheba Hart—a "wispy novice with a tinkly accent and see-through skirts"—chooses Barbara as a confidante, she is deeply, even rather sinisterly, gratified. Sheba's secret is explosive: married with two kids, she is having an affair with a fifteen-year-old student. The novel, Heller's second, is Barbara's supposedly objective "history" of the affair and its eventual discovery, written furtively while she and her friend are holed up in a borrowed house, waiting for Sheba's court date. Barbara has appointed herself Sheba's "unofficial guardian," protecting her from the salivating tabloids. Equally adroit at satire and at psychological suspense, Heller charts the course of a predatory friendship and demonstrates the lengths to which some people go for human company.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

I think the book was masterfully done and the way that Heller reveals the nature of each character is what held my interest so much. When I finished it, I was convinced that Barbara was really out of her mind and it's so ironic that at the end of the novel, she's the only one Sheba had left--and that's just fine by Barbara who can't imagine going back to her previous existence--one of abject loneliness. I don't want to give away the story but I can say that this read was fun. It wasn't terribly heavy and it was humorous but not in an outright kind of way. You definitely get a feel for the British sensibilities and I always get a kick out of reading things that refer to a flashlight as a "torch"--like my parents do. Tee-hee.

It's funny how I ended up reading this book. I had wanted to watch the movie after hearing Oprah talk about it some years ago. I couldn't remember for the life of me the name of the movie but I knew that it had won an Oscar. So I searched for all the Oscar winners for the last ten years until I finally found it. I went to put it on hold at the library and mistakenly put the book on hold. By the time I realized my mistake, the book had already come in so I couldn't cancel it. I put the movie on hold and I picked up the book at the library but since I was still reading The Color Purple, I didn't get into right away. A couple of days later, the movie actually came in (shockingly fast) and I went to pick that up. Since I intended to read the book and I absolutely hate seeing movies before the book, I powered my way through What was She Thinking? Now, I'm looking forward to seeing the movie.

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