My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell #review

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Title: My Dark Vanessa
Author: Kate Elizbeth Russell
Publisher: Fourth Estate



Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.

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.

Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

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.

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[My Review]

My Dark Vanessa is a very intriguing novel. It’s a dark (as the title would suggest), disturbing, and very convincing portrayal of a teenage-teacher relationship, from the beginning, and its effects for so long afterwards.

The novel tracks Vanessa from her time at the boarding school where she was groomed for sex by teacher Jacob Strane, and their ensuing ‘affair’ – though it is of course more of an abuser-abusee relationship, seeing as Vanessa was only 15 years old when it started – through to Vanessa’s adulthood trying to come to terms with what happened to her. Because everything is told from her point of view, we really get to know Vanessa’s thoughts and feelings, and we see why she is so taken in by Strane and how he manipulated her so effectively, maintaining his hold over her even as an adult. I think this is partly why I felt the story was so realistic, or at least I imagine it to be – because we can see how something like this could really happen.

It’s so interesting to see how blind Vanessa is to Strane’s abuse of her, even as an adult. In certain scenes, where she meets someone who has been through something very similar, she completely refuses to awknowledge Strane’s guilt, despite now being old enough to realise. It demonstrates how taken in she is by him.

The story is well paced and I never fond myself bored, despite some parts of the story developing fairly slowly. Kate Elizabeth Russell’s writing flows so well that you forget you’re reading the inner thoughts of a fifteen year old.

My Dark Vanessa is a great debut and one which gets me excited about future releases from this author.

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to the publisher, Fourth Estate, for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.


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