Today I’m sharing my thoughts on Reputation by Sarah Vaughan. I really enjoyed Anatomy of a Scandal so have been really looking forward to this hitting the top of the TBR. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
Emma Webster is a respectable MP.
Emma Webster is a devoted mother.
Emma Webster is innocent of the murder of a tabloid journalist.
Emma Webster is a liar.
#Reputation: The story you tell about yourself. And the lies others choose to believe…
Reputation is a very clever, often tense and thought provoking novel that taps into many of the key issues of modern life, particularly one lived in the political arena. Emma Webster is a teacher turned politician who, seeking to make a name for herself and really make a difference to society, takes on the key issue of women’s safety and in particular on-line safety, after one of her constituents takes her own life after becoming a victim of revenge porn. Being in the public eye is something that takes its toll on Emma’s family life, resulting in divorce and a daughter, Flora, whose life is stretched between her father and his new wife, and Emma’s home. Abuse, stalking, bullying and revenge are all key themes that run through the novel, those and the not so inconsequential charge of murder facing Emma …
This is a book which caught my attention from the start. Told predominantly from the points of view of Emma, Flora and journalist and soon to be alleged murder victim, Mike, Sarah Vaughan really captures the dangers that seem to increasingly come with a political career, especially for women. Politicians all find themselves targets, and you’d have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the recent murders of two politicians who were simply trying to serve their community, but for women in politics, the threats and abuse take on an increasingly sinister and skin crawling tone. For Emma Webster, the situation is exacerbated by a phot shoot which results in increasingly obscene and misogynistic comments, and threats, and rebukes, of a sexual nature all of which are bound to take their toll. The author does a brilliant job of examining the increasing concern and paranoia that comes with this constant abuse, the sensation of being stalked, and setting readers up for what will be a devastating climax to all of the pent up anxiety when it finally boils over. This frames the opening of the novel, where we get to know the main characters, to get a feeling for what is driving them, and witness the series of small events, individually worrying but collectively catastrophic.
I had mixed emotions about Emma. I believe that she as driven by a desire to do the right thing and make a difference, and as politicians go, she didn’t come across as being one of the more pushy, polished and teflon kind, but there was still something about her character which didn’t quite sit right. Perhaps it was her putting career before family, as is often the case when pursuing a position of power, and influence, but on more than one occasion she showed herself to be flawed, particularly in her dealings with Mike. When push came to shove she was there for her Flora when she needed her, but it was a kind of too little too late scenario that could have been avoided if she had been as open about communicating with her daughter as she was her constituents. That said, I felt some sympathy for her and her position, and Sarah Vaughan did a brilliant job of painting her as a complex, multi-layered character, and my affinity for her waxed and waned like the tide as we moved through the novel.
Flora was someone I really felt for. Only a child and victim of bullying and ostracised at school, there was so much about her plight and her eventual mistake that garnered my sympathy. Witnessing the abuse against her mother, and increasingly suffering at the hands of her own tormentors, it is no wonder that everything boils over in a way that feels almost inevitable and has far reaching consequences. Her anxiety if palpable, her sadness almost infectious, and no matter what, it would take a hard heart to feel anything but sadness for her.
Mike was a very complex character. On one hand there was a kind of softness about him and his ultimate fate was certainly not something that anyone deserved, but there was also that journalistic instinct which served to make him a not always sympathetic character. I couldn’t fault him for doing his job and chasing a story, and the ambiguity that the author imbues in his story and his actions – the contrast between the man who do anything for a headline, and offering Emma a chance to present her own story in a batter light – really meant that I was regularly changing opinion of him. Using threats of exposure to force Emma into action felt realistic, and elicited anger on my part, but there was another side to him that belied that killer instinct.
The latter part of the book explores the case against Emma, the court process and the witnesses who testify for, and against her. Sarah Vaughan portrays this brilliantly, as first witness in Anatomy of a Scandal, serving to move opinions back and forth between guilty and not guilty. The scenes in the courtroom are perfectly paced, capturing the back and forth, the almost disinterested tone of the barristers, the tripping up of witnesses, and the absolute surety of others that meant predicting the verdict was nigh on impossible. The tension and uncertainty played right through to the end, and if you think that the conclusion of the case means the end of all the unexpected twists and turns, think again. Just when you think you have an angle on everything, expect it all to be turned on its head with absolute style. This is a story about a career in which reputation is everything. How far would you be willing to go to protect yours? Definitely recommended.
About the Author
Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After training at the Press Association, she spent eleven years at the Guardian as a news reporter and political correspondent before leaving to freelance and write fiction. Her first two novels, The Art of Baking Blind and The Farm at the Edge of the World, were followed by her first psychological thriller, Anatomy of a Scandal: a Sunday Times bestseller, and Richard & Judy pick of the decade, developed as a Netflix series starring Rupert Friend, Michelle Dockery and Sienna Miller. Her fourth novel, Little Disasters, a Waterstone’s thriller of the month, was published in 2020. Reputation is her fifth novel.
3 thoughts on “Reputation by Sarah Vaughan”
I thought this was brilliant!
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Such a fab read isn’t it. And a good reason to never enter politics
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Would certainly put you off!
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