Notes on a Scandal – Zoe Heller
July 1, 2012 § 1 Comment
This was not on my list of books to read soon. In fact, because I had watched the movie way before I knew it was based on this novel, I thought I would keep this book for when I had forgotten most of what had happened in the movie.
But I suppose sometimes books on a shelf just like to play tricks on us. The more we avoid it, the more it seems to call my name. I was browsing the shelf, picking books and putting them back, each one telling me it just wasn’t their time yet. But when I picked up Notes on a Scandal, I went straight to bed with it.
I have to say, Judi Dench, who played Barbara in the movie, laid a pretty strong impression on me the last time I watched the movie. So all the while when I was reading the book, it felt like as if though I could see Judi Dench in my mind’s eye, telling me the story.
The book read exactly like what I would imagine a diary by someone like Barbara would be. It was straightforward. It was a recollection of not only the things that happened, but also the feelings and emotions that accompanied the happenings. And Barbara’s character stood out from the writing itself. The way the story was told, from Barbara’s point of view, was so full of her that it was quite impossible to think that she was anything but right, because that’s exactly how she felt.
There has been discussion that perhaps Barbara had some deep, sexual feelings for Sheba. Some say there is, some say it’s just a desperate need of an old woman for a soul-mate or companion. I’m slightly inclined towards the former.
From my reading of it, it feels like Barbara’s feelings are so deep and hidden, that she’s even careful about not revealing her deepest darkest thoughts out in writing. She’s unwilling to make it a fact – carve it in stone, perhaps. So she makes it, even to herself, like as if though she’s really just looking for a best friend.
Her obsessiveness and possessiveness comes through sometimes, but I rather reckon that these feelings are, instead, not quite strong enough. Maybe Heller wanted to make it subtle, but perhaps just a little too subtle, methinks. There just wasn’t enough in the book to really grip at my heart.
The last few chapters, where Sheba finds out about Barbara’s manuscript, was a little lost on my, I’ll have to admit. It felt a little abrupt, a little detached, a little out of the flow. Quite a “heh?” moment it was for me.
The last chapter, especially the last couple of paragraphs, did improve things a little, and here it became very obvious Barbara’s possessive nature. But it all felt slightly too little too late.
In the end, it was a book I could keep on reading, that I wanted to keep on reading. Which is definitely a good thing. Though I’m not sure if I got much out of it, it definitely kept me company for a few days.