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A Very English Scandal

Sex, Lies, and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment
Narrated by: Matthew Brenher
Length: 12 hrs and 29 mins
4 out of 5 stars (64 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A behind-the-scenes look at the desperate, scandalous private life of a British MP and champion manipulator, and the history-making trial that exposed his dirty secrets.

As a member of Parliament and leader of the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 70s, Jeremy Thorpe's bad behavior went under the radar for years. Police and politicians alike colluded to protect one of their own. In 1970, Thorpe was the most popular and charismatic politician in the country, poised to hold the balance of power in a coalition government.

But Jeremy Thorpe was a man with a secret. His homosexual affairs and harassment of past partners, along with his propensity for lying and embezzlement, only escalated as he evaded punishment. That is, until a dark night on the moor with an ex-lover, a dog, and a hired gun led to consequences that even his charm and power couldn't help him escape. Dubbed the "Trial of the Century", Thorpe's climactic case at the Old Bailey in London was the first time that a leading British politician had stood trial on a murder charge, and the first time that a murder plot had been hatched in the House of Commons. And it was the first time that a prominent public figure had been exposed as a philandering gay man in an era when homosexuality had only just become legal. With the pace and drama of a thriller, A Very English Scandal is an extraordinary story of hypocrisy, deceit, and betrayal at the heart of the British establishment.

©2016 John Preston (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Who knew?

I bet not many people know about the rank corruption that existed in the British Govt's Labor party back in the 1960's and 70's. I was a clueless college student in 1979, but reading this during our own USA national nightmare of an election (2016) I am so sickened by the people we choose to rule us, I have to shake my head in dismay. This book is very, very good and it reads like a novel. The narration was fine, although it might have been even better with some other narrators I prefer. But, Matthew Brenher was good. I chose this book because I loved The Dig and I look forward to other books by this very competent author!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Compelling Read

Having grown up in the US and being a child at the time, I was not aware of this scandal when it occurred. I discovered this book when I saw Hugh Grant on a late night talk show publicizing this scandal as the basis for his latest movie. As the story has been summarized many times in other commentary, I will not do so here. The author does a great job with "novelizing" the story and making it a compelling read. What I found interesting were the character studies of the participants -- especially Thorpe. On his persona alone, he was able to so thoroughly enthrall and captivate high level politicians, colleagues, and businessman to do his bidding and cover up his malfeasance. And not only would they willingly do his bidding but when things began to go wrong, they wanted to sacrifice themselves in order to save Thorpe. As mentioned by others, it is clear that Thorpe was protected to the end by his colleagues. However, given Thorpe's nature, I agree with the author's argument that the greatest punishment to Thorpe was his ostracization after the acquittal. Norman Scott, the victim, is equally compelling in how he was able to survive by getting people to care for him and how he eventually thwarted the plot to kill him. He has led a very interesting life -- from being a farmhand to male model to dressage trainer. There are some very comical moments in this story, especially in the plotting and the carrying out of the attempted murder. (less)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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How Sex Brought Down a Political Party

Brilliant book! Filled with surprises. I was brought up in the UK and always thought that our government was just so 'proper'. The only scandal that I was ever aware of was the Profumo affair and John Profumo was eventually forgiven for his dalliance.

However this book is filled from start to finish with some real shockers! I always thought that the Liberal Party was the dullest of all. Could not have been more wrong. It does have a more poignant side though. Jeremy Thorpe was a homosexual (who knew?) at a time when it was a crime in the UK (thank goodness things have changed). Because of that he had to live a lie. Of course one lie leads to another then another. It all ends up with a murder plot, a High Court case and the downfall of the Liberal party. These are only the highlights!

Most enjoyable performance by Matthew Brenher.

Not to be missed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Not many badgers in the House of Lords

I have quite enjoyed this book. I started listening to it after watching the recent British tv adaptation and was somewhat hesitant that I will not be able to enjoy the ride the second time around. I was proven wrong.

The story itself is so rich and bizarre that the tv adaptation could not really deliver all the funny nuances and small quarks of the characters. It really felt that it is a fictional story that intentionally follows tragic clowns, I just could not believe that people can behave that way.

I also liked that the book provided a good description of the context that the story took place, historical events and political intrigues. Not only it helped to appreciate the story itself but also taught me a history lesson or two. For instance, I was interested to learn that in England homosexualism was only decriminalized in the late '60s. And in line with the story spirit, the main sponsor of the bill was a politician who was mostly interested in protecting badgers' wellbeing.

The performance is excellent, nothing to add here.

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Fast-paced and unbelievable

I decided to give this audible book a listen after watching the miniseries that was based on it. British MP Jeremy Thorpe is as despicable as he was portrayed by Hugh Grant in the series. (It’s hard to believe he was ever elected to public service, though he had an undeniable ability to inspire loyalty from people—male and female). The book gives a fuller portrayal of Thorpe’s one-time lover Norman Josiffe/Scott, who is as steely and imaginative as he is desperate and pathetic. The various efforts to dismiss or “silence” Scott are farce-like and antic-ridden and demonstrate just how narcissistic and manipulative Thorpe was at his core. The second half of the book is bogged down, in my opinion, with excessive legal details, though these are certainly justified as necessary to demonstrate the way the British legal system continues to favor the privileged. As a book that anecdotally documents gay history in the UK, I appreciated the author’s description of how attitudes evolved among the public over the decades following its decriminalization of homosexuality in the mid-1960s. Narrator Matthew Brenher keeps up the pace and gives the story all the energy it needs and deserves.

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A Romp! And It's True!

If you could sum up A Very English Scandal in three words, what would they be?

Barrel of monkeys?

What about Matthew Brenher’s performance did you like?

Absolutely excellent. Like eavesdropping.

Any additional comments?

You'll never look at Parliament, and those who serve in it, the same way...

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Life Imitates Bad Art

One protagonist is an MP and party leader desperate to hide his gayness circa 1960 England. He is a deeply flawed man but of great charm. He struts through life.

The MP's friends are apparent men of the world who are manipulated by him for years on end to a degree beggaring belief.

The other protagonist, the MP's one-time paramour (or victim) is a deeply flawed man obsessed with the MP. He, too, can manipulate those whom he meets, if only briefly, as he staggers through life.

The paramour's friends are a cast of men and women who come and go from his life in rapid succession. Their willingness to help him is a puzzle.

The book's author is someone covering an improbably decades-long story with an eye for the improbability of it and the ability to make the reader snicker.

Were this story condensed into a USA or Latin American Soap opera, the plot would seem run of the mill absurd. Life imitates bad art.