My Dark Vanessa By Kate Elizabeth Russell
‘My Dark Vanessa’ is the first book by Kate Elizabeth Russell.
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.
The story is seen through the narrative of a young woman called Vanessa and is written in past and present sequences.
The story begins with Vanessa receiving news that her former secondary school teacher has been accused of abusing a pupil and with this news, it makes Vanessa reflect on her own experience with the teacher in question. The story then travels back and forth revealing Vanessa’s relationship with the teacher and the new accusations.
This book is such a dark and twisted story that it literally gets under your skin and at the times. The writing is so vivid and descriptive that I had to put the book down at times for a break. Vanessa is 15 when she attends schools on a scholarship and immediately catches the eye of English teacher Jacob Strane and they embark on a relationship that he starts but always maintains that it’s Vanessa that’s effected him and made him feel this way. Vanessa has written the story from both the teenager and adult perspective and naively writes about the relationship as a romantic love affair and not a paeophillic affair. But as new accusations come to light about Jacob’s behaviour, Vanessa finds herself thinking about her first relationship and whether it really was a loving relationship or if she was in-fact a victim of abuse.
This book touches on paeophillia, grooming, and gaslighting and is genuinely one of the most unsettling books that I’ve read in recent time. This book isn’t easy to read and contains vivid descriptions of underage sex which makes for extremely disturbing reading. The book is very current for its topic during the #MeToo movement and really sparks a conversation.
I genuinely disliked the Jacob, the villain of the story. I hate how he used Vanessa’s vulnerability to his own sick advantage, convincing her that there’s nothing wrong with their relationship and it was true love. It was like he was convincing himself and Vanessa that there was nothing with their relationship and regularly compared her to ‘Lolita’. It was sickening to read of his predatory behaviour and made me feel such sadness for the young women that have been treated in this appalling way.
‘My Dark Vanessa’ is Kate Eliabeth’s debut novel and is a strong contender for one of the most standout books of 2020. A harrowing and emotional story that exposes the dynamics of the relationship between the abuser and the victim as well as sex and power. ‘My Dark Vanessa’ is a thought provoking and devastating story that is hard read, so be prepared.
You can buy ‘My Dark Vanessa’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.