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

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Synopsis

A lonely schoolteacher reveals more than she intends when she records the story of her best friend's affair with a pupil in this sly, insightful novel

Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has led a solitary existence; aside from her cat, Portia, she has few friends and no intimates. When Sheba Hart joins St. George's as the new art teacher, Barbara senses the possibility of a new friendship. It begins with lunches and continues with regular invitations to meals with Sheba's seemingly close-knit family. But as Barbara and Sheba's relationship develops, another does as well: Sheba has begun a passionate affair with an underage male student. When it 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 Was She Thinking? is a story of repression and passion, envy and complacence, friendship and loneliness. A complex psychological portrait framed as a wicked satire, it is by turns funny, poignant, and sinister. With it, Zoë Heller surpasses the promise of her critically acclaimed first novel, Everything You Know.

 

About Zoë Heller

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Zoë Heller was born in London and lives in New York City. She is the author of the novels What Was She Thinking? (Notes on a Scandal), The Believers, and Everything You Know.
 
Published June 1, 2004 by Henry Holt and Co.. 270 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Humor & Entertainment. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for What Was She Thinking?

Kirkus Reviews

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Barbara’s tale is often stiff and clumsy (“I daresay we shall never know for certain the exact progress of her romantic attachment”), but it neatly limns the contrast between Barbara’s drab, spinsterish life and Sheba’s charming, fecund, expansive domesticity, with her academic husband (though he...

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Publishers Weekly

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Sheba Hart-a beautiful and charming bohemian high school art teacher in her early 40s-places her family, career and social status in grave jeopardy through a sexual relationship with 15-year-old Steven Connolly.

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Publishers Weekly

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Sheba is herself the object of fascination for her older colleague and defender, Barbara Covett, whose interest in Sheba is not overtly romantic but has an erotic—and at times malevolent—intensity.

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Book Reporter

In England, where it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Zoë Heller's second novel was titled simply NOTES ON A SCANDAL.

Jan 24 2011 | Read Full Review of What Was She Thinking?: Notes...

Entertainment Weekly

Though Sheba's demise is apparent, Heller brilliantly teases out the details of the scandal and fleshes out the increasingly sinister Barbara, who rivals Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley in spine-chilling creepiness.

Jul 25 2003 | Read Full Review of What Was She Thinking?: Notes...

The Millions

Every time there’s a new Auster novel out, I think it may be different, and I give him a chance, and soon find I’m back in the usual territory: identity puzzles, murky timelines, ominous danger.

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News Review.

With the most intriguing unreliable narrator since the unscrupulous critic Henry James created in The Aspern Papers, Zoe Heller’s novel is a tabloid-worthy tale of seduction, manipulation and the loss of innocence.

Nov 06 2003 | Read Full Review of What Was She Thinking?: Notes...

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