Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Book Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell #BRPreview

My Dark Vanessa
Kate Elizabeth Russell

Publisher: Harper Collins Australia 
Imprint: 4th Estate - GB
Publication date: 9th March 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 384
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format Read: Uncorrected paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Better Reading


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.

Vanessa is a 15 year old student when she is sexually abused by her 42 year old teacher. Vanessa thinks this is love and she is lolled and manipulated into thinking that their relationship is truly what love is.
We see Vanessa years later as an adult. She is not well adjusted and the abuse had clearly taken its toll on her.
When another victim outs Strane, Vanessa is forced to look back on her life and redefine what she thought was the love of her life.

My Dark Vanessa is a deeply disturbing story. Timely in the current  #MeToo era.
Right from the start it is obvious, from an adult’s point of view, that Vanessa is being groomed and reading it sends a chill through your body.
My Dark Vanessa is a story of manipulation, abuse of power and turning a blind eye. It is not only the perpetrator who is at fault here. Knowing adults need to speak up for children and denounce this behaviour.

My Dark Vanessa is a psychological drama that delves into the mind of an abuser and their victim.


Russell portrays the brain washing that a predator uses on their victim to turn the events around to be the victims fault.

Narrated in the first person, Vanessa’s story is heart-breaking and anger inducing; a book that will be on my mind for a long time to come.

My rating  5/5
I’m a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. My debut novel, My Dark Vanessa, is forthcoming from William Morrow (US), 4th Estate (UK), and will be translated into over twenty languages.
Originally from eastern Maine, I earned an MFA from Indiana University and a PhD from the University of Kansas.

This is also my Books and Bites Bingo - Category 5 #BooksandBitesBingo2020 


This week I will be completing the category 'Scary'.

It scares me to think there are men out there, in positions of trust, preying on our children and that other adults turn a blind eye. 

1 comment:

  1. This one sounds fascinating, I'd really love to read it - this review makes me think of one of the cases in Three Women, where these kinds of abuses sort of stretch the bounds of rigid definitions. Thank you for sharing!