Flashback Friday: What Was She Thinking? Notes On A Scandal

Flashback Friday is my own little weekly tradition, in which I pick a book from my reading past to highlight — and you’re invited to join in!

Here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal]

What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller

(published 2003)

From Goodreads:

Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has led a solitary life until Sheba Hart, the new art teacher at St. George’s, befriends her. But even as their relationship develops, so too does another: Sheba has begun an illicit affair with an underage male student. When the scandal turns into a media circus, Barbara decides to write an account in her friend’s defense—and ends up revealing not only Sheba’s secrets, but also her own.

If there’s a more perfect example of an unreliable narrator in fiction, I don’t know what it is! What Was She Thinking is a first-person account, narrated by Barbara, which chronicles her friendship with the young and exciting Sheba Hart. But Barbara’s viewpoint can’t necessarily be trusted. Is she telling us what truly happened, or is she relating the story as a means of justifying her own very questionable actions? The further we read, the more we realize that Barbara has an agenda, and is not just a witness but a catalyst for some of the catastrophic events in the novel.

Barbara’s mind is a dark and twisted place, and What Was She Thinking delves deeply into the scandals and betrayals in which Barbara and Sheba become embroiled. The book is compact and a fast read, with a sharpness and deviousness that are a delight to experience.

This book was made into a movie, 2006’s Notes On A Scandal, starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. In my opinion, while the movie was quite good, it lacked the insidiousness of the book. In the book, we believe Barbara to be decent and trustworthy at the start, and it’s only as we move forward that we realize that she’s anything but. In the movie, because we see the characters in action rather than just getting Barbara’s viewpoint of events, it much plainer from the beginning that Barbara has a screw (or two) loose and is not best friend material.

If you’ve seen the movie, give the book a try and see how they compare! Or if you’re unfamiliar with both, start with the book, then see what you think of the movie adaptation. Either way, the book is twisted fun and the movie is marvelous too.

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join the Flashback Friday fun, write a blog post about a book you love (please mention Bookshelf Fantasies as the Flashback Friday host!) and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!


Do you host a blog hop or book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!