Stephanie Scott’s acclaimed debut novel What’s Left of Me is Yours combines a crime thriller with a love story

Ten years in the making, Stephanie Scott’s first novel is a hugely accomplished debut, heralding the arrival of an exciting new literary voice.

Author Stephanie Scott, whose debut novel What’s Left of Me is Yours is out in paperback.
Author Stephanie Scott, whose debut novel What’s Left of Me is Yours is out in paperback.

Published in April last year and just out in paperback, What’s Left of Me is Yours is inspired by true events, its genesis rooted in a newspaper article that Scott read in 2010 by The Times Asia editor Richard Lloyd Parry.

“It was about a case in Japan where a ‘wakaresaseya’, or marriage break-up agent, had been arrested for murdering his target,” she explains.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“He quickly confessed but what really struck me about the story was that he said to the police ‘I loved her and I love her still’. I couldn’t understand how you could say that about someone you had murdered. It challenged me and posed lots of questions – and I think a question to be explored is the best starting point for a novel.”

The cover of Scott's debut novel.

It set off an interesting train of thought. “I started to think about love and enduring relationships and I was drawn to Tolstoy’s idea that there are as many different kinds of love as there are people. So I began to think about how we love and what we are capable of doing for love.” She then travelled to Tokyo to find out more.

It was the first of many research trips Scott carried out over the course of nearly a decade, staying for months at a time.

This deep immersion in Japanese culture paid dividends and is evident in the book’s detailed exploration of social and legal issues prevalent in contemporary Japan, particularly in relation to marriage breakdown and the industry that has grown up around it, with ‘wakaresaseya’ hired by one partner to seduce the other in order to gain advantage in divorce proceedings.

“What interested me was the possibility of exploring the position of women in Japan almost as a prism to look at the position of women more globally,” says Scott. “Despite the equality of opportunity laws, women there are still expected to primarily focus on being wives and mothers. So there is this conflict between societal expectations and personal desire.”

In the novel, a young lawyer Sumiko stumbles upon evidence that suggests her mother Rina did not die in a car accident as she has always been told since she was a child.

The story unfolds through two alternating perspectives and time frames following Sumiko’s journey to the truth and Rina’s loving relationship with Kaitaro who, unknown to her, has been employed by her husband to lure her into an affair.

“That mother-daughter relationship is the backbone of the novel,” says Scott.

“I wanted to explore Rina’s back story, honouring her as a person rather than a cipher.” Scott, who studied English at York University, worked as an investment banker before embarking on a MA in Creative Writing.

“I started writing stories as a child and it was always my secret wish to be a novelist,” she says. “Now that I am able to do write full-time, it really feels like I’ve come home.”

The response to What’s Left of Me is Yours has, deservedly, been extremely positive – it has been shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award – and Scott is certainly a writer to watch.

It will be fascinating to see what she does next.

What’s Left of Me is Yours, published by Orion publishing, is out now.