Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller

notesscandal1Review by Harvey Binns

Publisher and release date: Viking (2003)

What was she thinking? Is the question Barbara Covett is trying to find the answer for in Notes on a Scandal. The book takes a look at the not too common occurrence, and boyhood fantasy, of the deplorable relationship between female teacher and male student.

It begins during the aftermath of Sheba Hart’s relationship in the form of Barbra’s notes that go on to breakdown, in detail, the events that led up to the affair and the following consequences. Heller’s idea behind the tale is screaming to entertain, and she ensures this by not only successful writing, but by keeping the novel at a more than desirable length. I have a bias towards short books because I’m a slow reader. So any story told in as few words as possible is already one I’m looking forward to reading.

Notes on a Scandal contains dabs of humour throughout, which adds more to what is naturally a funny story. No stone is left uncovered in Barbra’s notes, and every aspect you would expect to hear about in Sheba’s and Steven Connolly’s relationship is told: the media’s hounding of it, the sex between them, Sheba’s teaching abilities, the events leading up to the relationship and the jokes Sheba suffers after her scandal is made public. This all makes for an extremely great story, but, in contradiction to what I said earlier, my only beef with the book is that it ends too soon. An extra chapter before its slightly creepy ending could have only done good. Nonetheless, Notes on a Scandal is a great story that any reader will enjoy.

  • Reasons to read: funny. Brings back boyhood fantasies. If you haven’t got the time to read a book competing with the length of the bible.
  • Reading level: dictionary required at times.
  • Length: 256 pages.
  • Where to get: physical and electronic retailers. Any good library should have this.
  • Favourite quote: “When you live alone, your furnishings, your possessions, are always confronting you with the thinness of your existence.”

Have you read Notes on a Scandal? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments

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