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Posts Tagged ‘What was she thinking? notes on a scandal

What was she thinking? Notes on a scandal – Zoe Heller

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The story is of young, middle class pretty high school teacher Bathsheba who has an affair with one of her under age students, Steven Connelly.  The story is told through Barbara who is a teacher at the same school.  Barbara is a sixty year old bitter and lonely spinster and quickly we realise that her life revolves around Bathsheba.  Barbara is wiked and cunning, a sad woman with evil and nasty traits and her ‘attachment’ to Sheba is obsessive, trying to be her mother, her friend, underlyingly, her lover perhaps?  Sheba is a lost sole living in a fantasy world-married to an older man she is trying to recapture her youth.  She has a pathetic pining for Steven that you would only except from a naive teenager.  Connelly is a typical adolescent boy who is charmed by having an older woman interested in him.

It is set in and around the school environment and the other characters are quite typical of teachers.  There is plenty of idle gossip in the staff room.

I really did not like this book, perhaps because the storyline was predictable, except for Barbara’s sinister attachment to Sheba which became apparent very quickly (there is a certain amount of unhealthy desriptiveness about Sheba by Barbara, her eye lashes etc.) The media-frenzy which followed the affair coming out was not too sensationalised which I was glad for.  The affair with the young student frankly repulsed me but did not come across as abusive whereas the supposed friendship between Sheba and Barbara suggested Sheba was a victim.

We had an interesting discussion about this book, especially given that most of us could relate to it, whether as teachers or as parents.  We were unclear if this was based on a true story? We decided to watch the film after our discussion to see how it compared to the book and as is often the case, we all agreed that the book captivated the story a lot better than the film although Judy Dench’s portrayal of Barbara affirmed the abnormal obsession she showed for Bathsheba.

Written by Um Yousef

6 May 2007 at 10:00 pm