Tuesday, 1 March 2022

 

Book review: Reputation by Sarah Vaughan [blog tour]


If I see a new book coming out by author Sarah Vaughan, I'm instantly interested – no matter what it's about. I already thoroughly enjoyed her women's fiction novel The Art of Baking Blind (and even interviewed her about it), but was absolutely blown-away by political courtroom thriller Anatomy of a Scandal (for which I interviewed her again) – which is launching as a TV-series on Netflix next month. Yes, it's that good that even Netflix wants in on it. Needless to say, I am thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for her latest novel: Reputation, which is coming out on Thursday. 

A reputation is everything for a female MP.  It can make or break her relationship with constituents, fellow political leaders, and the general public, who are watching her every move through the skewed lens of the media. When you're a female leader you're scrutinised, judged, and targetted, much more than your male counterparts. 

And for Emma Webster this becomes especially apparent after she does her first high-profile interview for the traditional press. One cover shoot, and she receives threats of attacks, stalking, and rape. Some on social media, some in the post, and some even on her personal mobile. As a precautious she now needs bottles of water on the desk when she meets her constituents, which is meant to help in the case of an acid attack. And when she goes home at night, she feels watched and followed. 

If this sounds like a horrific way to live, it's only the start of it. Because when a tabloid journalist is found death, the media storm around Emma has hit such a frenzy that she's the one accused of murder – and the general public starts to wonder if she indeed did do it. Her tireless work for the greater good, such as getting a bill through that forces much harder jail sentences for revenge porn, are forgotten and ignored. The only thing that matters is Emma's public reputation as shaped by the media. That's how people think of her, and her lawyer will need to convince the public jury otherwise...

Reputation is an incredible eye-opening and tough read about being a women in the public eye. If the skewed portrayal in the media and the inevitable response from the public doesn't result in actual physical harm, it's easy to understand that the mental damages can be just as destructive. Every single horrific word slung at Emma, in public, on social media, or in private notes, made my stomach churn. I cannot imagine what it's like to actually be on the receiving end of them – and I hope I never experience anything like this. 

It's not just the fact that Emma is in the public eye that makes people feel entitled to judge and cause harm. There's an equally distressing subplot in the book about her daughter, which shows the destruction of bullying, particularly in the age of social media. Girls and women are under constant scrutiny. Either seen as too weak or too aggressive, too full of themselves or too timid, there is no "perfect" middle-ground. And this, as Reputation shows, has a ripple effect with terrible consequences. 

And author Sarah Vaughan has done an incredible job turning this complex human behaviour into a gripping political courtroom thriller. I'm already a fast reader, but I could barely turn the pages quick enough to satisfy my need to know what would happen next. The plot, the characters, and the fact that she is incredible at having her finger on the pulse of current affairs when writing her novels, are all remarkable. The timing of Anatomy of a Scandal was very eerie with what has happening in the news at the time, and she's done the same once more. For example, the private social media chats between male MPs in which they're absolutely horrible about their female colleagues, mirror the stories currently surfacing of the messages in the WhatsApp groups of male members of the police. Horrific. 

Reputation is a powerful and thought-provoking novel about politics, the press, social media and, at the heart of it all, the ways women are treated – both in and out of the public eye. And it's just a damn good read. Sarah Vaughan has written such an engrossing story, that I wouldn't be surprised if a few short years from now we get an adaptation of this book on our screens as well.



Reputation by Sarah Vaughan will be published by Simon & Schuster on 3 March 2022 and you can preorder your copy now from your favourite book shop.


Blog tour stops for 'Reputation' by Sarah Vaughan

This review for 'Reputation' is a part of the official blog tour for the launch of the book. Make sure you check out the other stops!


Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me by the publisher, but this has not impacted this honest review.



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