A Very English Scandal by John Preston

A Very English Scandal - John Preston

Unfortunately I’ve been ill for the last few weeks and in the brief periods I’ve been well I’ve been preparing for Nanaowrimo (national novel writing month), which I’m going to be participating in this year. I’m finally getting back to some semblance of normality, so I feel up to writing a review of this fantastic book. As reading has taken a back seat recently, I’ve decided to just go for one bingo. Thriller/suspense isn’t really my genre, so I’ll be more than happy with one bingo.


It would be easy to forget that this is a work of non-fiction, based on the personal life of Jeremy Thorpe, the Liberal Democrat leader. For my American friends, the Lib Dems are one of the three main political parties here in the UK. They typically get a very meagre share of the seats available in the House of Commons, with the Conservative and Labour party holding the lions share.


Before Jeremy became the leader of his party he’d done some things, specifically in his personal life, that he didn’t want to come to light. At the start of the book he relates this problem to his fellow party member and so begins a plot to cover it up. Jeremy’d been involved in a homosexual relationship in his younger days and, at the time, homosexuality was illegal. The man he had this relationship with had letters which alluded to the affair, although by no means specific. Jeremy knows that if the letters become public, though, he’ll be tarnished and unable to continue in the public sphere.


Jeremy doesn’t actually do much of anything to rectify the situation, but elicits the help of his friends and fellow party members to do so instead. He was apparently such an infectious and charismatic character that his closest would do almost anything to protect him. The establishment did their part in helping to cover things up, as well. This is most abundantly clear at trial towards the end of the book.


The book is written in a sparse and journalistic style, as you’d expect from a work of non-fiction, but the plot is so fascinating that that has little bearing. 


I watched the mini-series starring Hugh Grant right after I finished and the perspective the book was told from (Jeremy’s fellow party member) was lost in the screen adaption. The overall feel of the adaption felt a little different due to this, but the book was followed closely in most other regards. Overall, though, it was quite good, with a great performance from Hugh Grant who played Jeremy.