Published by Penguin
Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller
Sheba Hart Joins the staff at St. Georges school as a pottery teacher and soon embarks on an illicit affair with one of her students. Barbara Covett, another teacher at the school befriends Sheba in her own fashion and documents the affair.Sheba finds that a friend can be more treacherous than an enemy.
When I started to read this book, I felt the story was familiar, and then discovered that I had seen the film of this novel some time ago. If you have seen the film, the book is still certainly worth reading as it has more insight and a slightly different ending. Basically a new teacher to a large comprehensive school starts an affair with a fifteen year old boy. She is later discovered in the affair, having been betrayed by her ‘so called’ friend Barbara, a near retirement, single, lonely teacher. Barbara, as the first person narrator, has a very dark and twisted idea of what friendship is, and when Sheba starts the affair with Steven, her pupil, Barbara decides to give advice and help. What emerges is a tale of loneliness, betrayal, jealousy and control.
The writing is subtle and the story unfolds in a sinister way. No character in the book is really likeable but this is not so important to this story. Almost everyone in the story makes mistakes,Sheba with her affair, Barbara with her strong hints to another teacher, Stevens’s compliance with the seduction, and Sheba’s daughter with her teenage tantrums.
Barbara is forced into retirement and I did, in the end, feel some sympathy for her position.
This is a very original book and the writing is excellent. The plot does get a bit weary at times, but overall it is a very good read.