What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal

Zoe Heller

With the most intriguing unreliable narrator since the unscrupulous critic Henry James created in The Aspern Papers, Zoe Heller’s novel is a tabloid-worthy tale of seduction, manipulation and the loss of innocence. Of course, we’re never quite sure who’s been seduced or manipulated, and the innocence of all parties involved is questionable. Bathsheba Hart, a teacher at an English high school, finds herself drawn into an affair with a 15-year-old schoolboy. We get the scoop from her confidante, Barbara Covett, a spinster with an acid tongue and an unfailingly critical eye. Barbara makes even her most petty observations noteworthy and forces herself into the middle of the scandal even as she pretends to be above it. Short-listed for the United Kingdom’s Man Booker Prize this year, Heller has written a guilty pleasure of a novel.