Top critical review
on 21 March 2018
It always disappoints me when I read a book that doesn't stand up to it's film adaptation.
Notes On A Scandal doesn't cut it. The characters feel watered down. Barbara Covett in the film is a hateful schemer, who hatches her plan from the beginning. I understand her motives and hating her and cringing at her is a part of the fun of her character. Whereas in the book i am finding it hard to believe her capable of malice. It seems to me that it was a coincidence what happened and that her big reveal to Bangs was actually an accident. Sorry, but I prefer to hate this character. It is far more powerful to think that Barbara schemed the whole thing up. The withered lesbian wanted company in her old age. Even her name says it all, Barbara Covett! It's brilliant! Barbra however, did not covet and the author never makes her intentions clear. It is confusing.
I found the writing style tedious. Zoe Heller drones on and on in the voice of Barbra, for sometimes pages at a time, and her droning neither adds to plot nor my understanding of the character. I really felt for Sheba in the film and I got her motivations. In the book, I thought she was pathetic, greedy and stupid. She blithely goes about this affair with Steven Connelly with little care for the consequences, unlike the deep and thoughtful screen counterpart. It just didn't make for good reading. When I read I want to understand and feel for the characters and I was disappointed in them and at worst, bored.
I don't like that Notes On A Scandal isn't told chronologically. The big reveal happens right at the beginning of the book and all the details are filled in afterwards. Sometimes this works, but in this case, chronological and a building up to the consequences would have been far more powerful. It's like Goldfinger playing cards at the beginning of Goldfinger. Sorry, but you've already weakened him. Why would I care about anything else he does? The same thing goes here. If I know there are no major consequences for Sheba from the off, then why would I bother reading any further? There's nothing more to learn.
I feel as though the author had an idea of the kind of book she wanted to write but didn't know how to execute it. Perhaps she had read a newspaper article about a similar case and she wanted to emulate it? Writing a novel is hard and takes a lot of time and planning to get it right. Perhaps if she had had harsher publishers or was more self-critical, she could have done a better of job of what is a fantastic story idea. I feel as though I have learnt nothing from reading Notes On A scandal and it hasn't changed or made me see things any differently to how I did before. Books are meant to make us question our reality and how did this make me question mine? I wondered to myself how better I might have spent my time than by reading it.
Overall I found Notes On A Scandal disappointing.