Emma Webster is a backbencher but she gains publicity after a Guardian interview with striking photos and especially when she makes the case of a girl who committed suicide after being cyberbullied with a private video of her ex-partner her prime topic. But then, things go quickly down the hill, she is harassed and threatened increasingly by frustrated men, her daughter Flora becomes the victim of bullying at school and online and makes a huge mistake. Emma, too, loses her temper and thus becomes the prime suspect in a murder case. How could this all go so wrong when she just wanted to protect her own and her daughter’s reputation?
I totally adored Sarah Vaughan’s novels “Notes on a Scandal” and “Little Disasters”. Her latest, “Reputation”, too, did definitely not disappoint. The author greatly used an important topic to fire up the plot and brilliantly outlines how, still in 2022, there is much more men can do than women and how fragile their public picture is. With Emma, she created an authentic protagonist whose point of view shows the contradictory feelings and constraints a woman in a public position is under.
On the one hand, the novel is a murder mystery in which you are repeatedly surprised as little bits and pieces surface unexpectedly making things appear in a different light. On the other hand, the novel lives on the personal perspective of Emma and her daughter being subject to bullying and harassment. Sarah Vaughn greatly develops the characters who come under ever more pressure until it gets too much and they do things they themselves would have considered unimaginable. The female characters are brilliantly developed since they have mixed feelings which make it all but easy to decide what to do and thus underline that life is far from being just black and white.
A great read with an important topic that outlines how cruel people can be and how important it is to have good friends you can rely on.
When her mother is about to die, Joanna returns home in the US after years of living in London. What she was not prepared for are the memories that come back to her and that are closely linked to her childhood and teenage years: the plans to run away from home together with her brother, the times when her uncle approached and molested her, her way out of middle-class life, the beginning of her academic career and the realisation that she will never fit in and that she is simply not good enough to marry a son of a well-off family even though she excels at an Ivy-League University. A week of mourning and memories that not all are welcome to Jo and her family.
What I liked about the book was how easily one could sympathise and bond with Jo and thus follow her thoughts. The springing back and forward between the events around the mother’s death and funeral and her memories helped to keep the story lively and authentic; some words or people just trigger memories that you can neither prevent from coming to the surface nor control in the extent that they hit you.
The novel addresses several interesting topics that are worth pondering about: what keeps a family together and why do some women over and over again forgive all their husbands’ wrongdoings? Is there some kind of escape from your family, can you ever really cut the links that were established by birth? Coming from a certain class, working hard and doing everything right, what keeps you still from really belonging and being considered an adequate match? A lot of food for thought, especially when you share the protagonist’s background and visions of life. A quiet novel that is perfect for calmer days.
She is one of the most successful women in the Silicon Valley, but now she wants more: Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in her home state Pennsylvania. She has got a great team, her campaign manager Josh has won several times before and is an experienced spin doctor and her assistant Laila has been with her in San Francisco before. But the most important are her husband Max and their three young daughters. So, the family leaves the bay area and moves in the house in the small town Charlotte grew up and that thirty years before she had sworn never to come back to again. Once the campaign starts, Max and Charlotte have to realise that they had no idea what these eighteen months would mean and the brittle marriage is getting closer to breaking. And their well-kept secrets suddenly threaten to come out when the fight for the win becomes ugly.
I really adored the character of Charlotte from the start. On the one hand, she is the successful businesswoman who made her way from a poor background to the top and is not afraid of taking hard decisions. On the other hand, we get her thoughts and years of success and a place at the top cannot prevent her from self-doubt and insecurity. She never really could get rid of the small town girl coming from a non-academic family.
Also the fact that she is constantly torn between having a career and being a mother seems to be quite authentic. Max takes a sabbatical to support her, but he is considered a wonderful and extraordinary husband – yet, he only does what thousands of women have done for their husbands and he still expects her to take over household duties. Even though they have quite an equal partnership, some traditional roles just cannot be abdicated that easily and more than once Charlotte wonders why this is the case and why she is treated differently from any male candidate.
Apart from those serious topics, the novel is first and foremost hilarious to read. There are so many comical situations that I several times wanted to laugh out loud, like e.g. when Charlotte picks a random pair of shoes for her first big speech since she is late and her baby daughter had “eaten” the one she wanted to wear and the media make a hype out of the question why she refuses to wear high heels and consider this an important statement – what she actually said was of only minor interest.
“Charlotte Walsh wants to win” is the perfect summer read, it gives insight in a political campaign which is fought with all means, also the very hideous ones, and adds to the discussion of gender roles and the question if women actually can achieve everything that men can.