Sunday, 5 April 2009

17. Zoe Heller - Notes on a Scandal

This was a re-read for a BookGroup I'm hoping to attend next month.

I'm worried by how strongly I identify with Barbara. She's a spinster who, at the beginning of the book, lives alone save for a cat to whom she is devoted. I am a spinster who is devoted to her cat. I do hope that there the resemblance ends.

Barbara is a teacher who, by her own admission, has few friends. She does, however, form a relationship with a new teacher at school. Ms Heller writes with Barbara's voice as she narrates this story of relationships.

Sheba, Barbara's new friend, is found to be having a sexual relationship with one of the school's pupils and this is played out against the backdrop of her relationship with Barbara. Additional information is supplied in the sub-text of Barbara's own relationships and the relationships within Sheba's family. Ms Heller handles the shifts in perspective seamlessly, drip feeding the reader just the right amount of information to build suspense, but leaving one tantalised by unanswered questions at the close of the novel.

This book has been made into a 'major motion picture', according to the cover. I'm not sure I want to see it though. Ms Heller's characters are still strongly alive in my imagination and I suspect they will remain so for some time. I think it might be best to leave them undisturbed a while - the capacity for a film to 'get it wrong' is huge!

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