Emma is a high-profile MP. Impassioned and empathetic, she wants to make a positive difference but faces threats and trolling as she tries to work in the public eye.
When she launches a campaign to protect women from the effects of online bullying, the abuse steps up. And when her teenage daughter’s character is called into question, Emma learns how far she will go to protect both their reputations.
But still: how did she come to be standing trial for murder? She only lied once – didn’t she?
I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Reputation by Sarah Vaughan today. It’s the first novel I’ve read by Vaughan, but I absolutely loved it and it won’t be my last.
The novel opens with a brilliant scene as we see the immediate aftermath of an incident that results in a man lying prone at the bottom of a flight of stairs looked down upon by another individual. It’s a shocking opening that immediately makes the reader sit up and take notice – what happened, and who are these people? Was it an accident, or has something more malicious taken place? The first section of the novel takes us back some three months earlier as we see how this situation came about with the remainder of the novel dealing with the aftermath.
As with most things, there no single event that leads to that point, but a steady accumulation of smaller incidents which build up to a critical moment. When we first meet Emma, it’s during a cover shoot for Guardian Weekend where she is presented as a strong and formidable MP, bolder than she feels in red lipstick and heels. While relatively new to politics, she is a strong advocate of women’s rights and is currently pushing for increased protection for those subjected to “revenge porn” – something that drove one of her own constituents to commit suicide. Of course, this rubs some people up the wrong way (“What about men’s rights?!”) and she endures increasingly aggressive and threatening messages and slurs as a result.
Her home situation is also complicated as her daughter, Flora, is subjected to a cruel campaign of bullying by her former friends and who makes a dreadful mistake in an attempt to retaliate. And then there’s the political correspondent who at first seems like a friend – and potentially more – and who supports Emma’s campaign before their relationship sours. This gradual escalation of events takes its toll on Emma both physically and mentality, and there’s quite a contrast between the woman sitting for her photo shoot and the person that we see some months later.
Emma is a fantastic character and one who quickly proves herself to be driven and not afraid to put her head above the parapet. At a time when many of our own MPs seem to be more concerned with their own interests than those of their constituents, it’s refreshing to meet an MP (however fictional) who is driven by the desire to make a real difference. She isn’t flawless and would readily admit that, but she is bold and opinionated and not afraid to speak out where she sees injustice, and I really liked her as a character. I did have questions as to some of her behaviour, but I wanted to believe her version of events.
Throughout the novel, Vaughan reminds us of the human side of politics, and particularly the sacrifices one makes when putting oneself in the public eye and the toll that it takes to face down those who feel that it’s acceptable to hurl abuse at those in such a role. I think it takes a lot to put yourself in such a position, and Vaughan highlights that this doesn’t come without a cost. In Emma’s case, her marriage didn’t survive her move into politics, and while she is close to her daughter, it’s undeniable that their relationship has been affected as a result of Emma’s chosen career. I think that it’s easy to forget the sacrifices that some make, and in Emma’s case, it makes the situation all the more painful to read about. One wonders if it’s worth it, and while Emma would undoubtedly say yes, I’m not so sure.
Vaughn also highlights the additional level of scrutiny that women in the public eye are subjected to and the way in which they are somehow considered “fair game” simply due to their chosen career. Even now, it goes beyond political beliefs as we see women judged on the way they dress and how they look. The media does it – I remember an article not all that long ago about the “Downing Street Catwalk” – and it’s made worse by social media where this objectification seems to give some the impression that they can vent their anger via threats and insults. It shouldn’t be the case – this is never acceptable – and yet it still seems as though it’s considered part and parcel of putting oneself forward in such a role. It’s something that Emma and her colleagues face in abundance, and which adds to the strain that Emma finds herself under.
Part thriller, part courtroom drama, Reputation shows just how quickly an individual can fall from grace, whether it’s their own fault or not. It’s a thought-provoking read and one that highlights the stress of being in the public eye, particularly as a female MP. It’s a fantastic novel and one that I highly recommend.
Reputation was published by Simon & Schuster on 3 March and is available in hardback, eBook, and audio formats. Huge thanks to the publisher and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for early review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.
Disclaimer – I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has in no way influenced my review.
About the Author
Brought up in Devon, Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After training at the Press Association, she spent eleven years at the Guardian as a news reporter, political correspondent, and health correspondent, before leaving to freelance and write fiction. Anatomy of a Scandal, her third novel was an instant international bestseller and translated into 22 languages, longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year 2018, and short-listed for the Audible Sounds of Crime Award, GoodReads Jury’s Out award, French Elle’s Prix des Lectrices, and Richard & Judy’s ‘Best of the Decade.’ Anatomy of a Scandal has been adapted for screen and will air on Netflix as a six-part series in Spring 2022. Little Disasters, her fourth novel, was selected as a Waterstones Thriller of the Month in 2021, has been sold to the US, France, Portugal, Sweden, and Spain, and optioned for TV. Reputation is her fifth novel.
Make sure you check out the other bloggers taking part in the tour: