Reputation by Sarah Vaughan is the third book I’ve read by the former English political correspondent. I enjoyed her the popular Anatomy of a Scandal which has been adapted for television and coming to Netflix in April 2022. I wasn’t as enamoured with Little Disasters which had a stronger parenting focus as – regular readers of my reviews will know – my eyes glaze over at the mention of judgmental parents and parenting wars and the like.
She’s returned to what she knows best here however and the focus is very much on the world of politics. (And the private lives of those who run for office and the media reporting on them.)
by Sarah Vaughan
Published by Simon & Schuster UK
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Crime Fiction, Legal Procedural
As a politician, Emma has sacrificed a great deal for her career—including her marriage and her relationship with her daughter, Flora.
A former teacher, the glare of the spotlight is unnerving for Emma, particularly when it leads to countless insults, threats, and trolling as she tries to work in the public eye. As a woman, she knows her reputation is worth its weight in gold but as a politician, she discovers it only takes one slip-up to destroy it completely.
Fourteen-year-old Flora is learning the same hard lessons at school as she encounters heartless bullying. When another teenager takes her own life, Emma lobbies for a new law to protect women and girls from the effects of online abuse. Now, Emma and Flora find their personal lives uncomfortably intersected…but then the unthinkable happens.
A man is found dead in Emma’s home. A man she had every reason to be afraid of and to want gone. Fighting to protect her reputation, and determined to protect her family at all costs, Emma is pushed to the limits as the worst happens and her life is torn apart.
The book unfolds from Emma, Flora and Caroline’s point of view. The latter being Flora’s former piano teacher who had an affair with Emma’s husband (and is now his wife). The marriage breakdown (and affair) obviously caused a lot of friction but there seems to be an awkward truce as this novel kicks off. Things change over the course of the book however, as the adults have to consider what’s best for Flora. I note in my review of Little Disasters that I liked that Vaughan hasn’t been completely black/white in her portrayal of one of the male characters and it’s the same here. It’d be easy to dislike the philandering David but Vaughan gives us more nuance.
In reality she’s the same in her portrayal of other key characters, including journalist Mike and some of Emma’s work colleagues.
Emma’s a likeable lead. Though she has her flaws (a bit of a saviour complex I’d suggest) it seems her heart’s in the right place. Her father was a local Councillor and she’s determined to make him (his memory) proud and committed to doing right by her constituents. She prides herself on her morals / ethics but they’re tested here.
At the heart of this book is a whodunnit as well as some courtroom drama which I enjoyed; but there’s also a lot of weighty fodder for contemplation and discussion. We’re offered closure… but not quite. Like Vaughan’s other books this would be an excellent bookclub read as there are several ‘What would you have done?’ moments. We can ponder how we might have acted or how things could have been resolved differently.
Vaughan again touches on topical issues. Here the focus is very much on online bullying and revenge porn in addition to social media trolls and a life lived in the public eye (and those lived online).
This is another good read by Vaughan and I can only imagine it’d also translate well onto the screen. Particularly given our appetite for political intrigue and misdoings.
Reputation by Sarah Vaughan was published in Australia by Simon & Schuster and is now available.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.