Skip to main content

Notes on a Scandal: Loneliness sucks

Most people remember the film version of Notes on a Scandal (which I most unfortunately love) as being that one where Cate Blanchett has an affair with a teenage boy and Dame Judi Dench is some sort of predatory lesbian.

Cate Blanchett isn't enough of a dick in the movie

The book about which it is based, What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal], somewhat diverges from that. As I read it, I realized with increasing dismay that Dench's character, the narrator Barbara, was grossly maligned and simplified in the film. Not that her character is overly simple there, but she CAN in fact be reduced to 'predatory lesbian.' At least based on thoughtless impressions.

The book is narrated by Barbara, as she writes in her journal about her relationship with another teacher at the high school she has worked at for decades. This other teacher (Sheba) is new and wants to make some sort of difference in the lives of the students, but of course is immediately overrun by her pupils. Barbara is writing in the wake of Sheba's affair, and whether she is a reliable narrator or not is...questionable.


Barbara is likable and unlikable. She's extremely judgmental and uses phrases like "suppurating carbuncles," but this, of course, endeared her to me. Cliches are the worst, aren't they, Barbara? I'd say we should have tea, but you made such a big deal about going over to Sheba's for dinner that I worry it would just be uncomfortable for both of us. But STILL. People saying inane things: boooo. 

I had the misfortune of spending half an hour waiting with Sue at the 74 bus stop. At some point she actually turned to me and declared, in the halting, exulting manner of a person who was just then minting a delicious epigram, "You wait--when the bus finally comes, there'll be five of them right behind it."

She's likable for her judginess and likable because she is an acerbic, funny, intelligent woman, but she is too on her own, and this has made her socially awkward. If you're by yourself for a long, long time, playing with others isn't a skill that comes easily.

So. Loneliness.

Man is not meant to be alone. Loneliness is one of the worst things I think the human animal can experience in day-to-day life, and some of my most unfortunate memories, the ones so bad I can't get a silver living out of them, are when I felt unspeakably lonely.

And with this book, when Barbara is so desperate to form a connection with a human being, and talks about her endlessly repeated habits, day-in and day-out, having no one to share them, all I did was hope she would find someone. This book made me want to issue a proclamation that everyone has the right to a friend, and no one should go through through life feeling they are by themselves. 

May everyone someday live in an old lady house


Popular posts from this blog

How to Build a Girl Introductory Post, which is full of wonderful things you probably want to read

Acclaimed (in England mostly) lady Caitlin Moran has a novel coming out. A NOVEL. Where before she has primarily stuck to essays. Curious as we obviously were about this, I and a group of bloggers are having a READALONG of said novel, probably rife with spoilers (maybe they don't really matter for this book, though, so you should totally still read my posts). This is all hosted/cared for/lovingly nursed to health by Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads) because she has a lovely fancy job at an actual bookshop (Odyssey Books, where you can in fact pre-order this book and then feel delightful about yourself for helping an independent store). Emily and I have negotiated the wonders of Sri Lankan cuisine and wandered the Javits Center together. Would that I could drink with her more often than I have.

INTRODUCTION-wise (I might've tipped back a little something this evening, thus the constant asides), I am Alice. I enjoy the Pleistocene era of megafauna and drinking Shirley Templ…

Harry Potter 2013 Readalong Signup Post of Amazingness and Jollity

Okay, people. Here it is. Where you sign up to read the entire Harry Potter series (or to reminisce fondly), starting January 2013, assuming we all survive the Mayan apocalypse. I don't think I'm even going to get to Tina and Bette's reunion on The L Word until after Christmas, so here's hopin'.

You guys know how this works. Sign up if you want to. If you're new to the blog, know that we are mostly not going to take this seriously. And when we do take it seriously, it's going to be all Monty Python quotes when we disagree on something like the other person's opinion on Draco Malfoy. So be prepared for your parents being likened to hamsters.

If you want to write lengthy, heartfelt essays, that is SWELL. But this is maybe not the readalong for you. It's gonna be more posts with this sort of thing:

We're starting Sorceror's/Philosopher's Stone January 4th. Posts will be on Fridays. The first post will be some sort of hilarious/awesome que…

#24in48: What Was Good, What Was Bad, What You Should Read

24in48, where we try to read for 24 hours out of 48, has come and gone once more. I managed 13 hours, which considering my usual average is 2, is excellent and I will take it. I attribute this to genuine planning this time and a remarkable lack of things to do that weekend.

What did I finish!

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
Captain Phasma by Kelly Thompson (comic)
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
DC Bombshells Volume 1 (comic)
The Punisher: The Complete Collection, Volume 1 (comic)
Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

The Good.

It was actually all pretty good, so I'm gonna give a quick recap so you can decide if it strikes your fancy or not.

The Summaries

The Witches: Salem, 1692. This is a breakdown of everything that happened before, during, and after the Salem witch trials of 1692. I loved the beginning because Stacy Schiff gives you a good idea of the awfulness of life in New England in the 17th century, and it also helps you understand how the trials happened, because everyth…