ShortBookandScribes #PublicationDay #BookReview – Prima Facie by Suzie Miller

Prima Facie by Suzie Miller is published today by Hutchinson Heinemann in hardcover, eBook and audiobook. My thanks to Alice Dewing for the proof copy.

From the Olivier award-winning playwright of Prima Facie Suzie Miller comes her first novel, where power, patriarchy and morality diverge.

‘This is not life. This is law.’

Tessa Ensler is a brilliant barrister who’s forged her career in criminal defence through sheer determination. Since her days at Cambridge, she’s carefully disguised her working class roots in a male-dominated world where who you know is just as important as what you know. Driven by her belief in the right to a fair trial and a taste for victory, there’s nothing Tessa loves more than the thrill of getting her clients acquitted.

It seems like Tessa has it made when she is approached for a new job and nominated for the most prestigious award in her field. But when a date with a charismatic colleague goes horribly wrong, Tessa finds that the rules she’s always played by might not protect her, forcing her to question everything she’s ever believed in . . .

Prima Facie is the story of Tessa Ensler. Tessa is a barrister from working class roots who has worked incredibly hard to get to her current place in chambers. She’s aware she doesn’t necessarily fit in amongst her privately educated colleagues and has worked even harder because of it. She’s riding high, winning case after case easily. The reader is encouraged to think of Tessa as talented and brilliant at her job, but also a little bit arrogant with it. She’s good and she knows it. She doesn’t care if a person she represents is innocent or guilty – that’s not her decision to make, she only needs to do her best at defending them. It makes for an extremely interesting read, therefore, when Tessa finds herself in the position of seeing proceedings from the other side after a traumatic evening with one of her colleagues.

Is the law fair or broken? That’s the question I found myself considering when reading Prima Facie. It’s searing and honest and extremely thought-provoking. I enjoyed the legal setting very much and particularly loved Tessa’s courtroom scenes, with the main legal players being more like flamboyant actors than legal representatives. Prima Facie was originally a play with a monologue format which has been largely recreated in the novel and whilst there is dialogue between the characters, Tessa’s voice is strong and all-consuming and I felt her passion for the law coming through in her narrative.

Not always the easiest of reads due to the subject matter, this is a book that will stay with me and will continue to make me think long after I finished reading it.

Suzie Miller is an international playwright, librettist and screenwriter. She has a background in law, and has won numerous awards, including the Australian Writers’ Guild, Kit Denton Fellowship for Writing with Courage and an Olivier Award. She lives in London and Sydney and is developing major theatre, film and television projects across the UK, USA and Australia.

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