Having seen and loved the film version of Zoe Heller's critically acclaimed novel Notes on a Scandal (What Was She Thinking?), I am not sure why it's taken me such a long time to read the novel. And I didn't read it - I devoured it.
The story is narrated by an older woman named Barbara Covett, a bitter aging spinster who works as a high school teacher. She tells the story of Sheba Hart, her colleague from school, who pursues an extramarital affair with a 15-year old student. As the various events unfold, Barbara tries to get as close to Sheba as possible, hoping they would have an everlasting friendship.
What is both astounding and unsettling about Notes on a Scandal is how nothing is as it should be. For a woman who fornicates with a minor, Sheba is surprisingly unhurtful and naive. The relationship she has with Barbara is also very out of the ordinary and could easily be understood as romantic, save for all the practical reasons. And finally, as Barbara shares the events with us, the readers will slowly witness her own predatory features that may be even more dangerous than Sheba's.
Shortlisted for Man Bookers Prize, Notes on a Scandal (What Was She Thinking?) is a book well-worth of your time if you can handle some really unusal characters, situations and perceptions. The novel has been turned into a critically acclaimed film of the same name, starring Cate Blanchett as Sheba and Judi Dench as Barbara.