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Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller

Notes on a Scandal (2003)

by Zoë Heller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,502782,424 (3.63)173
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English (76)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (79)
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
A middle-age female high school teacher has an affair with a student that began when the student was fifteen. The narrator will mention more than once that the uproar among the public, friends of the teacher, friends of the student, and the school staff is different than what it would be if the situation were a male teacher with a female student. The could not be a book like this without making that observation; by doing so we have gotten social politics out of the way.

For those looking for salacious sexual content; this is NOT the book for you. In the first few pages the reader is almost promised all the lurid details of an eight-month affair, but you will have to look very hard to find any “good stuff.”

What the reader will find is some excellent writing in the way of character development. Barbara, the narrator, is a fascinating character. More and more of her character is revealed as the book moves on. The novel is in the form of Barbara’s notes on the scandal once Sheba has been caught. Barbara wants to make notes on her relationship with Sheba from the time she first met the new teacher until the “present” time, when she is still taking care of Sheba in the house of Sheba’s mom. While Barbara’s focus is on Sheba and student lover Connolly; Barbara also writes of her own relationship with headmaster Pabblem, former best friend Jennifer, and Sue Hodge. It seems Barbara is quite jealous of Sue because Sheba’s first close friend was Sue, not Barbara.

Barbara also is involved with Sheba’s family, husband Richard, daughter Polly, and son Ben. Barbara does not have a high opinion of many. She thinks Richard is pretentious and does not deserve Sheba. She thinks Polly is disrespectful and disdainful of Sheba (a correct viewpoint). She does not have bad things to say about Ben, but Ben has Down’s syndrome.

Sheba is an upper class lady trying to make a difference in sharing enlightenment with the lower class rough crowd of students at her school. Connolly is a student who sees an opportunity for sex. Sheba does not start out with the idea of sex with a student. She looks at Connolly’s early attempts at starting a relationship as cute. She rationalizes her responses as polite; she does not want to stunt his social growth by an outright rebuff. Then she becomes intrigued. Then she responds with more enthusiasm, then she gets caught.

After she gets caught, daughter Polly will not talk to her, husband Richard throws her out of the house and allows only limited visitation with Ben. Sheba loses her job. Barbara loses her job, ousted by the headmaster she never liked, but she was ready to retire anyway. Sheba moves into a house owned by her brother Eddie, who is away in another country for an extended period of time. Barbara moves in with her for emotional support; she also begins making notes (this novel).

There is a surprise, not to be revealed here. How did she get caught? Did someone see Sheba and Connolly together? Who informed?

But the surprise takes backstage to the examination of Barbara’s life (as explained by Barbara). And the answer to the unasked question of why Barbara, really quite a snob, is taking care of Sheba, remains unanswered. ( )
  ajarn7086 | May 13, 2016 |
As Barbara, the narrator, nears retirement from teaching in a London school, Sheba, a new art teacher, arrives. Barbara takes some trouble to develop a friendship and to discourage Sheba other potential friends. She keeps notes about Sheba that eventually include her love affair with a fifteen-year-old student. These notes form the story. Nasty people are plentiful: Sheba's husband, her daughter, her mother, the school principal, other teachers, even Barbara, that the book's success is all the more amazing. It's hard to appreciate that these unpleasant characters can hook the reader but combined with the psychological twists of jealousy, obsession, shifting loyalty and variations of love, you have a winner, albeit a creepy winner. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Apr 13, 2016 |
I didn't anticipate what a suspenseful, psychological novel this would be! Very Talented Mr Ripley or even Gone Girl-esque. ( )
  KLmesoftly | Mar 22, 2016 |
The lady who read the audio book sounded exactly like Dame Judi Dench, so it was like having the Dame herself tell me a slightly risqué and entertaining story on my daily commutes. Fabulous. And lots of top-shelf diction that was very impressive, too. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
Unless Sheba is dependent on Barbara, Barbara will revert to the nobody she was before. Was Barbara in love with Sheba? Or desperate to have intimate friendship after a life of loneliness?
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zoë Hellerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Massey, AnnaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Larry and Frankie
First words
March 1, 1998
The other night, at dinner, Sheba talked about the first time that she and the Connolly boy kissed. (Foreword)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Originally published in the UK and elsewhere under the title Notes on a Scandal, this book was also released in the USA under the titles What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal and then Notes on a Scandal: What Was She Thinking?
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141012250, Paperback)

When the new teacher first arrives, Barbara immediately senses that this woman will be different from the rest of her staff-room colleagues. But Barbara is not the only one to feel that Sheba is special, and before too long Sheba is involved in an illicit affair with a pupil. Barbara finds the relationship abhorrent, of course, but she is the only adult in whom Sheba can properly confide. So when the liaison is found out and Sheba's life falls apart, Barbara is there...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:00 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

When Sheba Hart joins St George's as the new pottery teacher, lonely Barbara Covett senses that she has found a kindred spirit. But Barbara is not the only one drawn to Sheba. Before long Sheba is involved in an illicit affair with a pupil. Barbara is powerless to stop Sheba from pursuing her foolhardy course of action. But when the liaison is found out and Sheba's marriage falls apart, Barbara is loyally standing by, ready to provide succour.… (more)

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2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141039957, 024195455X

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