My Dark Vanessa Review
Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Publication Date: 10 March 2020
Source: Jonathan Ball Publishers
Format: Trade Paperback
Rating: 5 Stars
Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher.
She is now thirty-two and the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student of his. Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that. But now, in 2017, in the midst of allegations against powerful men, she is being asked to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape.
Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, and as riveting as it is disturbing, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues our age is grappling with.
My Dark Vanessa is one of my most anticipated releases of the year. The pre-release buzz for this book had me itching to get a copy of this book in my hands as soon as possible.
Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball Publishers for sending me a copy of this book! Just a quick disclaimer for those who are reading this review, I have received this book for free. Please note that this does not affect my opinions in any way. All thoughts are my own.
The writing was harsh and honest and didn't hide behind beautiful descriptions. Vanessa's turmoil could be felt throughout the book. I was unable to tear myself away from this book, when I did stop for a moment it was in attempts to wrap my head around what had just happened.
The plot follows Vanessa in two separate timelines. The first timeline details Vanessa's experience at school and her relationship with Strane, this was the most difficult timeline to read as the sex scenes in this book were explicit and left me feeling both sad for Vanessa and disgust for Strane. The second timeline followed Vanessa when she is older and following the headlines about the reports against Strane. When Vanessa is older we see how she is grappling with idea that her relationship with Strane was not all she thought it was, especially when she compares it to the experience of those who have accused Strane of rape.
Vanessa is not an easy character to like. She isn't pleasant towards the other characters in this book and is quite difficult on some occasions. She is morally grey and there were moments where I couldn't believe what she was doing. However, I found myself sympathetic throughout the novel, before and after her relationship with Strane.
Overall, this was a difficult book to read. From the grooming to the explicit sex scenes, this was not an easy-going book. It was hard to read because you felt for Vanessa who didn't know what was happening to her and honestly believed that her experience was one of love. The writing was raw and captivating even though the book did feel long in some parts. The plot leaves the reader feeling shocked and disgusted. Vanessa was a harsh main character and reading from her perspective often made things difficult. This book is important not just because it deals with the topic of rape but also because of how it deals with the idea of coming forward. It allows the reader to ask not what is best for the cause of a movement like #MeToo but also to ask what is best for the individual. I highly recommend this book but I also advise caution as this book is explicit. Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book.
Yours in Reading,