Mel's Reviews > Anatomy of a Scandal

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
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did not like it
bookshelves: 1-star, read-in-2017

EDIT: Something was nagging me about my review, and I realized I forgot to talk about how disgusting this book talks about Androgynous people. I've added it in bold near the bottom.

Okay it's time to put on my big girl panties and review this book.

Firstly, I want to thank Atria books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book by sending me a review copy. They are my favourite publisher, and while I didn't enjoy this book, that still remains because I have never disliked one of their books before.

A brief synopsis: A female lawyer is going to be prosecuting a member of the parliament, high up in the government and friends with the Prime Minister, in court for raping a woman he was having an affair with.

This went from bad to worse for me sadly. It has everything going for it at first and that made me extremely skeptical. It seemed too good to be true to see a topic this important done well and actually including an important social commentary. However, there is a fine line between social commentary and preaching and sadly, for me, this book tipped way over into the preachy side of things.

I should probably mention now that every issue I am mentioning is caused by the writing. The book and topic isn't MEANT to be preachy, but the writing makes it so.

The plot is actually not horrible, but once again, the author made some choices for the book that I didn't really understand. Because the focal point of the book is the rape court case, she has very choppy time cuts. We go from the man being arrested, to the preliminary court case, to the actual court case, in 3 chapters. There is no in between, the time we would normally have to get the story about what happens, the time we could get character development, get growth and learn, but instead we leave the preliminary hearing at the end of 1 chapter and are dropped off in the court again at the beginning of another chapter. The flow was off, and therefore the pacing was off.

The characters sadly also suffered from the writing. There was no development and therefore I didn't care about anyone. I didn't care about the outcome of the court case. We never meet the victim, are never introduced to her, and everyone else is so underdeveloped that you are left with little emotion to the rest of the characters. (We meet her through the lawyer, so we don't actually get to know her) I will say, the book actually does show how charming the man could be, because I did actually find his chapters quite charming.

Now: the writing. I have issues with the writing to the point where I don't really know where to begin.

Issue 1: The perspectives. There are many different character perspectives in this, all of them in 3rd person, except the prosecuting lawyer, who was written in first person. In my opinion, this was a grave mistake. It felt EXTREMELY uncomfortable to read from this characters perspective. She spoke directly to the reader, and I mean directly. "Oh, I am in a bad mood. You can tell I am in a bad mood when I start talking like a high school politician." This is the narrator telling the reader something, and I did not like it, because it did not fit into this book. There is, straight up, and entire page later in the book where the narrator talks and talks about rape and how a woman never asks for rape. This is 100% true, and amazing social commentary, but it's being told to the audience by the narrator. She is not thinking it, or speaking it outloud, she is speaking to the audience. This is where I found the book got extremely preachy, it had great messages, but were just straight up told to us with really nothing else. It was kind of like if you watched a movie and it had really important messages and then all of a sudden the actor paused the movie and turned to the camera and looked directly into the camera and started telling you why what you were watching was important. It's not that it's wrong, it's just that it really messes with the flow of the movie. That's sort of what Kate's chapters were like to me when reading.

Issue 2: Diversity. Now, this is a story about women and really the only male character is the alleged rapist. But, Vaughan felt the need to be extra specific that there was some diversity. When learning about the jury members, which was done in passing and they are very unimportant and only mentioned like twice, she would always specifically state that the man was an "asian man" and that the man was a "black man" but never any other time. No "white man" in the audience, just man. Simply saying "the jury was filled with people with different races and genders" or something would have worked. There is an actual line, well I am quoting from an ARC so there may be changes in the final copy, that says "the jurors smile back at him and nod, these twelve good men, though seven of them were women." ................
I don't even know what to say to that? Like okay, there were 7 women and 5 men, but what's so hard about saying that. It's almost like she has to point out how it COULD have been all men, but she added diversity and put some women on the jury. I'm fairly certain it's against the law to have a jury of the same gender anyways. I just didn't mesh well to the way this book tried to include diversity.

Issue 3: Everything. This is a bit rough to say, but I didn't like any aspects of this story. Even the rape case itself was very poorly done in my opinion because the possibility of innocence is never offered to the readers. We HAVE to think he is guilty, because he IS guilty. But the reader would rather make that decision on their own when given all the information, than be told what to believe. That was a hard aspect for me to deal with, and is a lot of the criticism I had. I wrote in this book, my first time ever doing this. I wrote over and over again that there is little mention, while it's EXTREMELY rare, that men are sometimes wrongly accused of rape. I did understand as the book progressed why this decision was made on the authors part, but it didn't make me feel any better as a reader.

So I said up above I forgot to talk about this authors portrayal of Androgynous people, and god I can't believe I did. I actually had smoke coming out of my ears in this moment.
I am going to use exact quotes, but I am reading an ARC copy so my quotes may be changed/removed in the final edition

"She's sufficiently slim to pull off the androgynous, waif-like look, and it has desexualized her body."
Another instance:
"....her unnecessary sexiness fought until she became almost androgynous.."
Umm... implying that androgynous people are not sexy is not really very body positive/female positive at all. Like what's the point of this entire sentence. My favourite model is Rain Dove and they are androgynous and they literally fight all the time for androgynous people to still be seen as sexy.
The character literally uses this to tell us how her client, the victim, is appearing in court. This implies that the author thinks androgynous people won't be raped, and that they aren't sexy. I just can't with this.

I'm going to end this by saying that sometimes you can read a story and absolutely just not care about the way the book is written. I think, for many, this will be one of those cases. Unfortunately I found the book itself got way too much in the way for me to enjoy the story. I don't personally recommend it at all, but I also do respect others decisions to read this, and can respect people that ignored it's flaws and chose to look at just the things the book was trying to say.
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Reading Progress

November 21, 2017 – Started Reading
November 21, 2017 – Shelved
November 24, 2017 –
page 63
16.07% "This novel could end up being veryyyyyy problematic for me when the lawyer defending the potential rapist is so unlikable I instantly want her to lose."
December 4, 2017 – Shelved as: owned-tbr
December 19, 2017 –
page 115
29.34% "Slowly making my way through this but jesus it’s horrible so far.

Throws in racial descriptions when she wants to make the reader aware she included diversity.
Time jumps and forgoes plot and character development and structure in order to further the message being portrayed in this."
December 20, 2017 –
page 122
31.12% "“She’s sufficiently slim to pull off the androgynous, waif-like look, and it has desexualized her body.”

Like maybe let’s not stereotype and disrespect androgynous people while we’re at it? Like there’s absolutely no need for this comparison and it’s just shitty writing?"
December 21, 2017 –
page 205
52.3% "Marginally better but horrific writing still. Big twist is not a twist."
December 26, 2017 –
page 270
68.88% "It’s like 50% hate reading now and 50% wanting to finish this because I got sent this book by a publisher but L O R D help me survive this book."
December 27, 2017 – Finished Reading
January 5, 2018 – Shelved as: 1-star
January 5, 2018 – Shelved as: read-in-2017

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

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message 1: by Brittany (new) - added it

Brittany Oh, no! I was looking forward to reading this.


message 2: by Mel (new) - rated it 1 star

Mel Oh god I couldn’t recommend anything less. I wrote my entire review and I just tore this to shreds so I need to edit a bit before I add my thoughts.


message 3: by Alexandra (new)

Alexandra Anamaria That bad? :))) I can't remember the last time I wanted to give one star to a book; I have to keep this one in mind for my "A book with bad reviews" check on my 2018 TBR xD.


message 4: by Mel (new) - rated it 1 star

Mel It's that bad. The plot was very preachy so the format and pacing was off. The writing was SO BAD that everything was made worse by it.


message 5: by Alexandra (new)

Alexandra Anamaria Oh my! I'm sorry you had to go through that! May all the great books you'll read this year make up for it :)


Rian *fire and books* That is a really great and thoughtful review! Well done!


message 7: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Aranda I appreciate and love how thorough you were with your review. It can be hard to write about flaws clearly as you don't want to be misconstrued. Your writing was perfectly clear and definitely serves as a warning to those who plan on reading this book without completely discouraging them. Well done Mel. :)


message 8: by Mel (new) - rated it 1 star

Mel Thank you so much Rachel! That’s really kind of you to say and I’m really glad you enjoyed the review. I tried to make it as thoughtful and thorough as I could.


message 9: by Theresa Alan (new)

Theresa Alan Great review!


message 10: by Aileen (new)

Aileen haven't read the book, but really liked your review, particularly pointing out how androgeny is portrayed, as well as race.


message 11: by Coley (new)

Coley thanks. this helped a lot! I was skeptical of all the 4 star reviews.


message 12: by Mel (new) - rated it 1 star

Mel Thank you very much Teresa!!

Aileen thank you :) It just felt wrong for me to see other books get bashed by the community for similar things and this one to get a free pass.

Yeah Coley I am not sure why it has so many good reviews. Like I guess they ignored the writing but even the plot is a damn mess so I have no idea where they found 4 stars within these pages.


(I don't get notifications for comments anymore for whatever reason so I'm sorry for delayed responses)


Nikki I'd never heard of Rain Dove before so I looked into her. She's awesome, love what she's doing!


message 14: by Mel (new) - rated it 1 star

Mel I’m so glad someone looked into her after this review, I achieved what I wanted to!! But yeah I love what she does and it’s why it further infuriated me to read these comments.


Elena Sorry if I reply to your review half a year later, but I'm reading the book and I'm finding it too long and slow, but the sentence about the jury you're mentioning is it told by James? Maybe it was written specifically to better understand HIS view of women. I'm reading this book now and I'm not at that point yet, but it seems it like it was a sentence told by James...


message 16: by Mel (new) - rated it 1 star

Mel Elena wrote: "Sorry if I reply to your review half a year later, but I'm reading the book and I'm finding it too long and slow, but the sentence about the jury you're mentioning is it told by James? Maybe it was..."

Nope, everything I quoted from the book was in the point of view of the lawyer herself...


Elena Mel wrote: "Nope, everything I quoted from the book was in the point of view of the lawyer herself.."

Then it's an evaluation of the odds and strategies. I don't know if you've read The Runaway Jury by John Grisham 😃 it's really a common thing in every legal thriller book/tv series 😊


message 18: by Mel (new) - rated it 1 star

Mel Elena wrote: "Mel wrote: "Nope, everything I quoted from the book was in the point of view of the lawyer herself.."

Then it's an evaluation of the odds and strategies. I don't know if you've read [book:The Runa..."


Sorry, I'm a little bit confused at the relevance of that? My issue was the way it was written, not the content of the sentence. But I am also aware the purpose of it as I too have read and watched other books and series in my lifetime.


message 19: by Natalie (new)

Natalie Minto Great review. I gave up half way through and you touched on lots of the things I disliked about it


message 20: by Mel (new) - rated it 1 star

Mel I’m glad I’m not alone! It was just really not my cup of tea.


Charlene Looked for a one star review. Agreed with you on the one star but most of my negative points were different. I agree I didn’t like anyone. I sort of thought the initial “rape” was just really disgusting behavior by them both . The androgynous stuff you mentioned whizzed by me. Sorry, modern times. But I also disliked many passages that had just too many ornate words .


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