BOOK REVIEW: JOHN PRESTON – A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL

Like everyone, I’ve been engrossed in the whole Jeremy Thorpe scandal thanks to the BBC One drama, A Very English Scandal starring Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as Norman Scott. I’ve loved this series, it’s all that I’ve been thinking about. Hugh Grant is just brilliant as Jeremy Thorpe and Ben Whishaw is just beautiful as Norman Scott. No beat goes unnoticed. But, when I first saw this TV drama was coming, I saw that it was actually based on a book by the same name. So, after the first episode, I ordered myself a copy. And, it’s safe to say, the book is just as, or if not more, gripping than the TV show…

I’ve never heard of the Jeremy Thorpe scandal before this. With it being so important and highly talked about, I thought I would know at least something. Yes, it’s before I was born but I can’t help but feel that I would know about it. But I think this makes me glad too in a way, too. I went into this blind, not knowing what to expect and just let the story grip me. And god, what a gripping story. This is what the blurb says:

Behind oak-panelled doors in the House of Commons, men with cut-glass accents and gold signet rings are conspiring to murder. It’s the late 1960s and homosexuality has only just been legalised, and Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal party, has a secret he’s desperate to hide. As long as Norman Scott, his beautiful, unstable lover is around, Thorpe’s brilliant career is at risk. With the help of his fellow politicians, Thorpe schemes, deceives, embezzles – until he can see only one way to silence Scott for good.

Preston’s writing is just brilliant. He grips you right into the story with this array of characters. With it being so intense, you have to keep reminding yourself that this isn’t a thriller, this is a true story. You are so engrossed in the book that it does feel as if you’re reading a thriller when it fact this is the biggest scandal in Britain’s political history.

If you’re a fan of the TV show, then you’d love this book. The TV show is very similar as the book and I think it’s a much better reading after you finish watching it. But, you will not get Hugh Grant out of your head. In the book, there are more finer details that you might miss or not included in the TV drama. There’s a lot more focus on Bessell which I found really interesting. I really loved this quote in the book:

“By coincidence, he was staying in the same hotel where he had heard the news that Thorpe had been arrested. But now there was no electrical storm, no lighting dancing symbolically on the horizon. Now, as Bessell put down the phone, there was only silence, solitude and sadness.”
(p311)

This is a brilliant book that really captures everything about the Jeremy Thorpe scandal. So gripping in fact that it feels like a thriller with a large array of complex, well-drawn out characters. But it’s a true story, a true story that changed the landscape of British history, especially political history. I found the whole homosexuality issue very interesting too and at times, it was very shocking to read. Like I said, I didn’t know anything about the Jeremy Thorpe scandal. But now, after reading this and watching the TV series, I am fascinated. I want to read more, learn more, about Jeremy Thorpe and this scandalous trial.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Have you watched the TV drama? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks,

Corey.

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