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review 2018-10-07 16:00
A Very English Scandal by John Preston
A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment - John M. 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.

 

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text 2018-09-18 15:54
Reading progress update: I've read 20%.
A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment - John M. Preston

This is my next read and I'm really enjoying it. Intrigue and scandal at it's best.

 

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review 2018-05-11 21:47
When truth is stranger than fiction
A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment - John M. Preston

The story of a government MP who uses and abuses his position of power to not only funnel funds but also amazingly to arrange the murder of his on/off lover Norman Scott, makes for surreal reading. Jeremy Thorpe was a respected eloquent Liberal MP and under the guise of a suave persona he was frightened to reveal to his friends, and in particular his constituents, that he was homosexual. In the politically correct world we live today such a revelation  would have had little impact in comparison to the frightened and conservative attitude of 60/70's Britain.

 

Norman Scott had received and retained a number of sensitive and very private letters from his lover. Thorpe was terrified that Scott would use this correspondence to blackmail him and reveal to the world at large secrets of his personal life. When all attempts to retrieve the letters failed Jeremy Thorpe unbelievably decided his only real option was to arrange the execution of Scott. What follows is somewhat farcical; when the hired gunman shoots Norman Scott's dog and turns the weapon to his intended target the said gun jams leaving the hired executioner no option but to flee leaving in his wake a frightened and perplexed Scott.

 

The world of politics is often a murky arena where the privileged few appear to operate without any thought for the feelings of others and more importantly refusing to accept any accountability. Yet equally the morals we purport to hold today seem no better than the misguided assumptions of 60/70's London. We need look no further than the recent "Windrush" scandal where the home secretary Amber Rudd clearly lied when questioned by a select committee. The fact that the government then replaced the disgraced MP with an ethnically acceptable minister cannot escape the sour taste of duplicity.

 

"A very English Scandal" was certainly a very informative, witty and entertaining read. The trial that followed the bungled assassination attempt resulted in Jeremy Thorpe being acquitted but it marked the end of his political career. His government seat disappeared under the march of conservatism and the emergence of a new firebrand, the dictatorial  residency of one Margaret Thatcher. The novel also makes mention of Cyril Smith, one time heavyweight Liberal MP for Rochdale, and Jimmy Savile a well known TV personality. It is equally disheartening to realise that these repulsive individuals were able to carry out such vile acts of sexual abuse of the innocent never to be unmasked until after their deaths, even though there was overwhelming evidence. In the case of Cyril Smith the Greater Manchester Police, for their own reasons, choose not to bring Smith to justice in his lifetime and for that they should hang their heads in shame.

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text 2017-07-05 01:22
Reading progress update: I've read 200 out of 340 pages.
A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment - John M. Preston

the review that put me onto this True Crime book and called it "unbelievable" was right on the money. it's hard to process that this sequence of events actually happened. and I'm not done yet.

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text 2017-07-04 14:40
Reading progress update: I've read 123 out of 340 pages.
A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment - John M. Preston

the whole thing becomes quite surreal once two British politicians start skulking around the shadows of the House of Commons discussing a murder. this must have been a big deal at the time, when the story finally hit the public consciousness; I haven't got that far yet in the proceedings, though. it's a stupefying bit of notorious history. Thorpe has turned into quite a piece of work.

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