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What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal | [Zoe Heller]

What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal

Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has led a bitter, lonely life as a self-made careerist. Sheba Hart is an ethereal, inexperienced new pottery teacher. When Barbara hears of Sheba's problems in the classroom, a maternal pity arises in her that soon leads to friendship and confidence. But Barbara is unprepared for the secret she will learn: that Sheba has begun a passionate affair with an underage male student. Barbara's confusion, disapproval, and jealousy are helpless to prevent the coming disaster.
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Publisher's Summary

Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has led a bitter, lonely life as a self-made careerist. Sheba Hart is an ethereal, inexperienced new pottery teacher. When Barbara hears of Sheba's problems in the classroom, a maternal pity arises in her that soon leads to friendship and confidence. But Barbara is unprepared for the secret she will learn: that Sheba has begun a passionate affair with an underage male student. Barbara's confusion, disapproval, and jealousy are helpless to prevent the coming disaster.

When the story comes to light and Sheba falls prey to the inevitable media circus, Barbara decides to write an account in her friend's defense; an account that reveals not only Sheba's secrets, but her own. What results is a complex psychological portrait framed as a wicked satire - a story of passion and repression, mercy and betrayal.

©2003 ZoĆ« Heller; (P)2006 Blackstone Audio Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Gripping from start to finish; Heller brings vivid, nuanced characterizations to the racy story." (Publishers Weekly)
"Both a penetrating character study and a sharp examination of voyeurism, Heller's novel is utterly brilliant." (Booklist)
"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." (New Yorker)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (269 )
5 star
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Overall
3.8 (106 )
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Story
3.9 (106 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Joan Montreal, Saskatchewan, Canada 02-17-07
    Joan Montreal, Saskatchewan, Canada 02-17-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
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    "Absolutely stunning"

    This was my first experience of an audiobook narrated by Nadia May. I was so impressed by her ability to do so many different voices that I immediately looked for another by her.

    I haven't yet seen the Oscar-nominated movie, but seriously question whether the movie version can possibly match this narrated version. Nadia May has an amazing ability to bring to life a wide variety of characters, her male voices are as good as the female, and her phrasing and accents are perfect.

    The novel itself is one of the best I have had the pleasure of experiencing for a long time, and Zoe Heller, I predict, is going to be one of the most-read novelists of our times. If you had only one novel to read/hear this year, let this be the one.

    Very highly recommended indeed.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Everett Leiter New York, NY 08-11-07
    Everett Leiter New York, NY 08-11-07 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Spellbinding!"

    I decided to listen to this audiobook after having seen the superb movie version earlier this year. As fascinating as I found the movie, the original book is so filled with layers of subtlety, emotion, ambiguity, and irony that it was hard to put it down. Who is the main protagonist in this story? Is it the naive, inexperienced school teacher Sheba, who lets herself be seduced by an underaged student? Or is it the late middle-aged colleague, Barbara, who seeks to escape her bitter loneliness in befriending Sheba, documenting Sheba's affair in a diary, and ultimately being the possible cause of her downfall? The story is told from the point of view of Barbara: sensible, cautious, frank, but also somewhat self-deluding. Nadia May's narration, as always, is alive and nuanced.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori S. Chadbourne 02-19-07 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Pearl's wisdom"

    "What was she thinking?: Notes on a Scandal" was excellent. I also saw the movie, and I think the narrator of the book did a wonderful job...I could practically see Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett as I was listening in my car. I would definitely recommend this audio to others.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catina Milwaukee, WI, USA 04-21-07
    Catina Milwaukee, WI, USA 04-21-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Wonderful Narration"

    I agree with the other member about Nadia Mays narration. I listened to Notes on a Scandal(did not see the movie) while traveling and at work. I was impressed with how clear Nadia spoke even with an accent. I was equally impressed with her ability to represent each character with a different voice.

    I had many "laugh out loud" moments with the text which was enhanced by her characterization. Listening to this audible is encouraging me to get the movie. Hopefully, I will not be disappointed.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Philadelphia, PA, USA 05-10-07
    Patricia Philadelphia, PA, USA 05-10-07 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    24
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    "Complex characters and brilliant satire"

    I have rarely enjoyed an audiobook as much as I enjoyed this. The story itself and the characters are both very realistic and bitingly satirical. The time spent listening to this book literally flew by and I know I will be listetning to it over and over in the weeks to come.

    In addition to being a good story with very good characters, this audiobook also sets the standard for narration. The narrator here is nothing short of brilliant. I cannot imagine that the film version of this book brings these characters to life any more than this narrator did with her wonderful performance here. My only fear is that she has spoiled me for other audiobooks.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Highland Village, TX, USA 06-04-09
    Kathleen Highland Village, TX, USA 06-04-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Liked but annoyed"

    I agree with most of the reviewers the book was well written and narrated. But I found myself genuinely NOT liking the characters.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angie Kansas City, MO, United States 05-21-07
    Angie Kansas City, MO, United States 05-21-07 Member Since 2010

    Immigration lawyer in Kansas City. I like Character driven dramas, fantasy (monsters, magic and witches oh my!) and coming of age stories. Favs include: The Book Thief, The Game of Throne series, Harry Potter Series, Dresden Files, Nightside series, anything by Neil Gaimen, 100 Years of Solitude.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    378
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    "Great narrator"

    Great story and great narrator I thought the ending was a little weak. It seemed it just sort of stopped. Although I could probably guess what happend next (trial sentencing disgrace, divorce) I sort of wanted more.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendi Overland Park, KS, United States 04-15-15
    Wendi Overland Park, KS, United States 04-15-15 Member Since 2012

    Canadian girl in Kansas, love audible, books on kindle or kindle fire, and old fashioned books! I enjoy fiction most, mostly books with strong female leads. Favourite authors: Diana Gabaldon, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Wally Lamb, Pat Conroy, Andre Dubus III, Lisa Genova, many more!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Took My Breath Away"

    Several people may already be familiar with this beautifully written book by Zoe Heller. The film 'Notes on a Scandal' was critically acclaimed and well received by audiences all over the world. The performances were impeccable, and the story of teacher and younger lover was somehow beautifully told- a subject which is difficult at best to even grasp.

    The novel the movie was based on does not disappoint us. Impeccably read- so much so that one may imagine the love, the bitterness, the jealousy and the anger if it' were happening in front of you- as if you were a fly on the wall so to speak. Heller has created a tale that should garnish hatred and dismay from the reader, instead, we draw empathy and almost love for the beautiful woman who fell into the trap of seduction by a boy, a student in fact. Her older friend and fellow educator had ulterior motives when she made sure Sheba's indiscretions were found for all the world to see. Quick to the rescue Barbara was, all the while secretly proud that she had set off what she wanted to accomplish, which was Sheba's reliance upon her. It was her way of expressing her romantic love for Sheba, who grows more confused with her actions and feelings as things progress.

    Heller manages to take into her hands the very imperfections of human kind, and make them beautiful in a different light. We are not inherently bad, but sometimes our feelings are overwhelming and we simply make poor choices along the way.

    This book is mesmerizing. The narration is as close to perfection as any I've heard. The story, although in so many ways inappropriate, is somehow beautiful and put together perfectly. This is definitely one of my favourite listens. 5 big stars all the way around, highly recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jamie Toronto, ON, Canada 07-02-09
    Jamie Toronto, ON, Canada 07-02-09 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "tart and delicious"

    Having seen the movie did not detract from the pure delight I felt in listening to this excellent novel, with its scandal conveyed to us in all its tawdry detail by Barbara, one of the finest examples of an unreliable narrator ever created. Nadia May's narration is exquisite -- she renders Barbara's high-handedness and cunning self-delusion with precision and even a pang of sympathy.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Rock Hill, SC, United States 03-01-08
    Susan Rock Hill, SC, United States 03-01-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Notes is excellent!"

    This book is an excellent and interesting read. I was hooked from the start. The narrator was perfect and the story was very well written. I enjoyed it tremendously!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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