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What Was She Thinking?

Notes on a Scandal: A Novel

Zoe Heller

Picador

Shortlisted for the Mann Booker Prize
A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year


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 friendship. It begins with lunches and continues with regular invitations to meals with Sheba's seemingly close-knit family. But as their relationship develops, another does as well: Sheba has begun a passionate affair with an underage male student. And 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 an unwitting 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.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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What Was She Thinking?

 
The first time I ever saw Sheba was on a Monday morning, early in the winter term of 1996. I was standing in the St. George's car park, getting books out of the back of my car, when she came through the gates on a bicycle--an old-fashioned, butcher-boy model with a basket in the front. Her hair was arranged in one of those artfully dishevelled up-dos: a lot of stray tendrils framing the jaw, and something like a chopstick piercing a rough bun at the back. It was the sort of hairstyle that film actresses wear when they're playing sexy lady doctors.
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REVIEWS

Praise for What Was She Thinking?

"Heller elevates a tabloid-worthy tale of obsession into an intense, witty, literary page-turner."--Entertainment Weekly

"Deliciously perverse, laugh-out-loud funny [with] caustic wit and needle-sharp observations. The reader looks on, amused and aghast, as both unlikely seductress and her self-deluding protector become locked in a helpless embrace of need and betrayal."--Vogue

"Deft, multivalent characterizations."--Lisa Levy, Newsday

"Wicked and wonderful social satire."--Glamour

"Heller is a great ventriloquist of character, and as the unhinged curator of the Sheba affair, Barbara is painfully note-perfect. What Was She Thinking? achieves some very worthy literary aims indeed."--The Washington Post Book World

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Zoe Heller

  • Zoë Heller was born in London and lives in New York City. Currently a columnist for London's Daily Telegraph, she has contributed to such publications as Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The Independent, The Sunday Times (London), and The New Republic. She is also the author of the novel Everything You Know.
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What Was She Thinking?

Notes on a Scandal: A Novel

Zoe Heller

Man Booker Prize Nominee

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

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