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"Prima Facie" by Suzie Miller - Review

Jodie Comer narrates the novelisation of the West End and Broadway hit play

By Ted RyanPublished 3 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - March 2024

Based on the award-winning play starring Jodie Comer

‘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 . . .

I had previously watched the National Theatre’s live recording of Prima Facie and was absolutely enthralled by the captivating script and Jodie Comer’s exceptional performance. Naturally, I was interested in reading Suzie Miller's reimagining of her play as a novel. Over the weekend, I listened to Prima Facie's audiobook, where Comer reprised her role as Tessa and narrated it. Just like when I first watched the play, I was hooked by every word.

Following a non-linear structure, each chapter is dedicated to Tessa's story's past, present and future. From her working-class beginnings, scholarship education and her career as a defence barrister. Tessa then soon finds herself on the opposite side of the courtroom when she’s assaulted by a colleague she’s dating. This forces Tessa to see the law from an entirely new perspective as she goes through the criminal proceedings as a survivor of assault and confronts the repercussions on her personal and professional life.

Miller’s writing is superb, and the first-person perspective really draws the reader into Tessa’s psyche and emotional journey. Miller’s scriptwriting history is apparent in her writing style, which leans more into the emotions rather than spending pages on descriptive text. I really enjoyed this fast-paced take on the story, which was just as emotionally impactful as the theatrical version.

Jodie Comer was a perfect casting choice to bring the prose adaptation of Prima Facie to life. Comer was magnificent as Tessa on stage, capturing the character’s complexity as the reader gains a more detailed insight into her youth and the woman she later becomes. As each chapter is set in a different timeline, we hear Comer’s reading shift based on where Tessa is in her life. From her younger years with her strong northern accent to the later years when Tessa’s accent becomes more RP as she becomes a successful lawyer. The use of code-switching fleshes out Tessa’s character and grounded the arc she goes on. The vocal performance throughout the book was truly exceptional.

The book stays faithful to the play’s origins, but the story is expanded upon with more characters and plotlines explored throughout. The themes of consent are at the heart of this story, exploring the aftermath of an assault that happens during an established relationship. From the law angle, it also gives the statistics of these cases and how lawyers lean into doubting an alleged victim’s story by trying to find inconsistencies to sway the jury and the emotional turmoil that causes.

This book offers a devastating and brutal side of such a severe crime from both the victim and the justice system, but it is a story that needs to be told and Miller gives the reader a character that the audience can truly care about as the story unfolds.

This book also offers a solid groundwork for the upcoming film adaptation starring Cynthia Erivo (Wicked: Part One & Two, Bad Times at the El Royale, Widows) as Tessa with Susanna White (Generation Kill, Jane Eyre, Woman Walks Ahead) set to direct and Miller writing the screen adaptation. After the hard-hitting play and emotionally impactful novelisation, I am excited to see how this story translates onto the big screen.

I highly recommend this book, which is now available as an e-book, audiobook, and hardcover.

Due to its themes and subject matter, I would advise some readers to approach reading this with caution, as some scenes may be triggering.

My rating of Prima Facie by Suzie Miller - ★★★★★.

Review

About the Creator

Ted Ryan

When I’m not reviewing or analysing pop culture, I’m writing stories of my own.

Reviewer/Screenwriter socials: Twitter.

Author socials: You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Goodreads as T.J. Ryan.

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Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (6)

  • Ricardo de Moura Pereira2 months ago

    Very good

  • I was really touched by your review, which used Tessa's tale to illustrate the intricate relationship between judicial systems and emotional pain.

  • Anna 3 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • Grz Colm3 months ago

    Nice work on your top story Ted! ☺️👍

  • Kendall Defoe 3 months ago

    I have read so much about this production. Thank you for this review!

  • Grz Colm3 months ago

    Excellent review. I’ve not seen the NT live show but your enthusiasm for the book has me far more interested in it now if it returns.

Ted RyanWritten by Ted Ryan

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