Who: Emma Watson, British Member of Parliament and mother of 14-year-old Flora.
What: A spine-tingling thriller that weaves in elements of voyeurism, public policy, privacy rights, and feminism
When: Modern-day -- 2021
How: A divorced, four-year Member of Parliament, Emma Watson lives in a house with three other female MPs during the workweek. She has received increasing numbers of threatening messages, letters, and other ominous violent overtures since championing legislation to protect victims of revenge porn. When a man is killed in Watson’s London home, she is charged with murder.
What I Thought:
This book was jaw-droppingly good. From the very beginning, I understood Emma Watson—she regrets appearing, somehow, too attractive and/or powerful in photos accompanying a newspaper profile. She does not want to trouble higher authority figures with the death threats anonymous bullies lob casually in her direction.
There are timeline and narration jumps in Reputation, and they’re handled with aplomb by Sarah Vaughan. Too many narrators or timeline jumps can become overwhelming, but they are effective at stoking tension in this narrative.
The plot is built slowly and effectively, as at first you wonder who the dead man is and then how & why he ended up at the bottom of the stairs.
The introduction of Emma and her modern family is also handled skillfully, as we meet her ex-husband and his new, younger wife, a woman with whom Emma once had a friendship. Their daughter, Flora, is struggling in school after experiencing a friend breakup, and the attention garnered by her mom’s heightened profile in Parliament is quite unwelcome.
One of the parts of the book I found most fascinating was the introduction to British Parliament and the court system in Great Britain. Prosecutors refer to themselves and their office as “The Crown,” much like district attorneys represent the state in the United States.
Emma commutes on a bike, which sounds lovely, but can cause trepidation when she finds herself being followed on her way home from work.
The author does an incredible job of bringing several pertinent issues together in this story: how the levers of power and networking are two-sided, and the ways in which not all victims of crimes are protected (and defended) equally. The ways in which public figures are targeted, and have zero expectation of privacy, are at the forefront of Emma Watson’s narrative, culminating in the trial at the end and highlighted most effectively in the testimony of the female newspaper reporter.
The only part of the book I wasn’t fond of was the way texting / messaging between and amongst the teens was depicted, and that may be because of the e-book format. The text was significantly smaller, emojis are hard to decode, and I don’t speak adolescent, so the acronyms were kind of tough to figure out. These issues might be fixed in the final e-book version, and other readers might not face the same struggles.
Overall, I highly recommend this book and I’m going to look out for Vaughan’s previous books—I’ve already requested one from the library.
My thanks to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the advance copy of Reputation.
Reputation is scheduled for release on July 5, 2022.