Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

Date of Publication: 2003, Picador

“Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has led a solitary life until Sheba Hart, the new art teacher at St. George’s, befriends her. But even as their relationship develops, so too does another: Sheba has begun an illicit affair with an underage male student. When the scandal turns into a media circus, Barbara decides to write an account in her friend’s defense – and ends up revealing not only Sheba’s secrets but her own.”

What I liked best about this book was the way in which Barbara colors her account of Sheba’s life, family, and affair with young Connolly with her own ideas. It’s very easy to follow the story as presented and believe that everything is accurate – but one must remember that this is coming from a lonely and slightly disturbed woman who is obsessed with Sheba and must have made up much of the story to fit her own opinions and desires. This comes out in a surprising outburst by Sheba: “You really believe this stuff is the truth. You write about things you never saw, people you don’t know.” The result is the creepy realization that we never really knew what went on between Sheba and her young lover, or what went on in her mind, but only what Barbara has told us. Both characters are equally compelling, although I felt extremely exasperated with Sheba from time to time. In the end, I would recommend this book to just about everyone I know.

Rating: 8/10


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