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Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller

Notes on a Scandal (2003)

by Zoë Heller

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Really enjoyed this one & liked the film as well. Donating as clearing bookshelves for move. ( )
  anissaannalise | Jan 1, 2014 |
Offered to the Oz VBB November 2013
  livrecache | Nov 12, 2013 |
Another well overdue book from my TBR and I have to ask myself why it took me so long to pick it up. I haven't seen the film version but I do know it stars Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench. And on reading Barbara's narrative I could 'hear' Judi Dench's voice in my head.

I really enjoyed this book, well written with some great descriptions. I particularly liked the use of the word 'incubus' when an angry Sheba told Barbara what her husband had said about her. That word stuck with me, a strong accusation but perhaps correct to an extent. The author leaves it up to the reader to decide what the outcome of the situation will be. Both with the impending court case and the future of Barbara and Sheba's friendship.

Let's look at Barbara first: Here is a woman who worms her way into the life of those she presumes to be weak. A predator, who dominates and in a less obvious way bullies. Someone who becomes a subversive friend, attaches like a leech before you realise that you really want to get rid of them. Can you identify with that? I'm sure you can from somewhere in your life. We get a glimpse of this Barbara when she refers to her previous friendship with Jenny who cuts her out completely. Barbara is hurt but doesn't see what she is doing in these relationships, smothering her friends. A spinster teacher with no external interests in life other than her cat.

Moving on to Sheba: Sheba has gone into teaching later in life after bringing up her family. She has a trying relationship with her mother and is the daughter of a renowned father. Sheba married young, much to her mother's upset but adding to this upset by marrying a man much older than herself. Her husband is wrapped up in his own career and you are left with the view that Sheba feels a tad neglected. She starts her new teaching post and has trouble holding the classes under control. She is shown some interest by a younger pupil, is flattered and responds to his charms. What struck me about Sheba is her lack of self control. She knew her actions were wrong but she did nothing to put a stop to it or made half hearted attempts in the beginning. We see her as weak and she is certainly in the eyes of Barbara. Yet, Sheba does have strengths.

I am not sure if I want to see the film. More often than not, film adaptations do not live up to the written word. The storyline is uncomfortable as it discusses abuse of trust, sexual relationship between teacher and pupil, friendship, marriage and much more. Blanchett and Dench are both formidable actresses and I am sure gave their roles justice.

You may not like the subject matter but the book is well worth reading and I highly recommend it. ( )
  booketta | Aug 23, 2013 |
Really excellent stuff, which I shouldn't have sneered at ten years ago. (Nonetheless, after a while of seeing it everywhere, I'd bought a copy because I thought I ought to.)

The narrative is theatrical in the best possible way: though realist, this is obviously a story (I hardly ever even thought to nitpick), and a very well told, engrossing story it is too. The “twist” is entirely natural and plausible unlike so many plot points given that name in plenty of other books.

For a long time I assumed Notes on a Scandal would be full of cheap tabloid moralising, until the opinions of a few people on here persuaded me otherwise. Barbara and Sheba are pleasingly “unacceptable”, I always found them understandable, and therefore in a way likeable, perhaps more often than they were intended to be.

Read 12 August 2013. ( )
  antonomasia | Aug 15, 2013 |
This book is more of a character study than anything; not a lot happens plotwise, but the characters are so beautifully created that it hardly matters. Sheba and Barbara, the two principals, are both deeply, deeply flawed. I can't truly decide which one is more flawed; Sheba, on the one hand, has a bright eyed innocence but is clearly guilty of horrific choices and utter stupidity. Barbara, on the other hand, is more cold and calculating and deeply selfish, but also profoundly lonely and desperate. In any case, both feel true to life and while both are terrible people (it's truly difficult to sympathize with any characters in this novel; perhaps Ben, Sheba's son, who alone seems to be the massive collateral damage) you understand their motivations and understand their flaws. I very much enjoyed the way the novel finished with Barbara victorious; given their personalities, there could be no other way. I also thought the way Heller examined Sheba's motivations was the truest account of a cheating spouse that I've ever read. All in all, the novel felt like it could have easily happened, and perhaps this realism was what I liked best. ( )
  Raven9167 | Apr 13, 2013 |
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For Larry and Frankie
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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.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:49 -0400)

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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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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141039957, 024195455X

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