From Publishers Weekly
Heller's 2003 novel earned tremendous acclaim, including a spot on the shortlist for the prestigious Man Booker Prize. The audio release coincides with the 2007 film adaptation, Notes on a Scandal, starring Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench. Sheba Hart-a beautiful and charming bohemian high school art teacher in her early 40s-places her family, career and social status in grave jeopardy through a sexual relationship with 15-year-old Steven Connolly. Sheba's dowdy colleague and confidant Barbara Covett recounts the story from a deliciously twisted perspective steeped in obsession and jealousy. Veteran narrator Nadia May brings nuance to Barbara's voice. The layered structure of the tale itself-a lonely spinster relating the details of a steamy intergenerational love affair secondhand-presents a challenge for the audio format, but one that May meets with finesse. Listeners wanting to cut to the chase and escape into a garden-variety sexual thriller may grow impatient, but those with an appreciation for character-driven drama will not be disappointed. Simultaneous release with the Picador paperback (Reviews, May 26, 2003).
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Barbara Covett, a sixtyish history teacher, is the kind of unmarried-woman-with-cat whose female friends sooner or later decide she is "too intense." Thus when a beautiful new pottery teacher, Sheba Hart—a "wispy novice with a tinkly accent and see-through skirts"—chooses Barbara as a confidante, she is deeply, even rather sinisterly, gratified. Sheba's secret is explosive: married with two kids, she is having an affair with a fifteen-year-old student. The novel, Heller's second, is Barbara's supposedly objective "history" of the affair and its eventual discovery, written furtively while she and her friend are holed up in a borrowed house, waiting for Sheba's court date. Barbara has appointed herself Sheba's "unofficial guardian," protecting her from the salivating tabloids. Equally adroit at satire and at psychological suspense, Heller charts the course of a predatory friendship and demonstrates the lengths to which some people go for human company.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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