Prima Facie by Suzie Miller review – Jodie Comer narrates with charisma and firepower

prima facie by suzie miller review – jodie comer narrates with charisma and firepower

Delving deeply … Jodie Comer. Photograph: Stéphane Cardinale/Corbis/Getty Images

A tale of a criminal defence barrister who is raped by a male colleague, the award-winning Prima Facie began life as a one-woman play starring Jodie Comer and was a hit in the West End and on Broadway. Such was its impact that it helped to change the law around what juries are allowed to consider when deliberating on rape cases.

The writer Suzie Miller, who spent 15 years as a lawyer, has since expanded the play into a novel, in which she fills in the gaps in protagonist Tessa Ensler’s life before she became a junior barrister specialising in sexual assault cases. Tessa recalls overcoming a difficult childhood on a Luton council estate to get a place at Cambridge, a scholarship in chambers and her own two-bedroom flat. Though she feels like a fish out of water in her old life, she is nonetheless irritated by the privileged, public school-educated upstarts who surround her at the bar.

On reporting her rape to the police, Tessa believes her training will stand her in good stead for what is to come. Yet, on the receiving end of the kind of interrogation that she herself has meted out in court, she finds the law pays little heed to the ambiguities around consent and the experience of victims.

Comer returns as the book’s narrator, allowing her to delve deeper into the role of Tessa. While the writing has its clumsy moments, Comer brings charisma, emotional complexity and firepower to the role of a woman whose life has been blown apart by the actions of a man.

• Available via Penguin Audio, 9hr 18min

Further listening

Demon Copperhead

Barbara Kingsolver, Faber, 21hr 3min

The Women’s prize-winning novel, inspired by the story of David Copperfield and set in the Appalachians, is read by Charlie Thurston.

Lucky

Louise Thompson, Penguin Audio, 6hr 21min

The Made in Chelsea star reads her memoir recounting her traumatic experience of childbirth, when she and her baby nearly died.

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