- File Size: 1414 KB
- Print Length: 384 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow (March 10, 2020)
- Publication Date: March 10, 2020
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07R8V69FN
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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My Dark Vanessa: A Novel Kindle Edition
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I also wonder if authors these days realize that conservatives buy books. Conservative minded people read books. This novel was peppered with snarky comments. "conservative trolls".... "We laugh along with Jon Stewart, cringe when George W Bush comes on-screen" "I can't believe he stole the election" I say. "They all steal elections", Mom says "It's just not so bad when a Democrat does it" Really? There was much more of these type of exchanges that added little value to the book.
The only time that she feels truly seen is in Mr. Strane’s American Lit class. He speaks to her as if she’s a peer - not as if she’s just a child. He understands her on a level that no one else does. And it’s the most intoxicating experience she’s ever known.
The repercussions of their forbidden relationship will bleed into every aspect of her life for years to come. Until the day when a single Facebook post shatters the illusion of the love that has come to define her.
My Dark Vanessa is by far my favourite book so far this year! With her hypnotic debut, Kate Elizabeth Russell weaves a tale that is as disturbing as it is soulful. She made it so easy for me to relate to Vanessa on a very genuine level. I felt her isolation, her complexity and her turmoil as if it were my own. With every layer of her character that was peeled back, a more tender layer was revealed. I saw her as a fragile warrior struggling to hold together all of her jagged pieces. And her strength was awe-inspiring.
This book clearly isn’t going to be for everyone. But for those who can look into the shadows and still see light, this is story that you will never forget…
there was not a single moment where i wished for more detail about a different character. the story is vanessa's and hers alone. we see it through her eyes. for better or for worse, we are in it with her. we see what she saw, what she remembered of those (besides strane) who made a deep enough mark on her to leave an impression. the details given about other characters are minute, carefully chosen. they paint sincere details that provide shocking depth to minor characters that don't require much to serve their purpose in the novel, their purpose to vanessa.
it was not too long. it did not feel repetitive or have a lull. this story consumed over fifteen years of vanessa's life. she struggled with what happened in a confusing, messed up, imperfect way. for better for for worse, we went on that ride with her. we're taken through such an intimate, painful, sometimes borderline thrilling journey, and russell does a beautiful job grappling with the myriad of feelings you may experience as a victim. was it my fault? did i ask for it? did i deserve it? if i'm being blamed, could it have been even a little bit me? if it was me, was it because i liked it? because i wanted it? will i make it out alive?
if you've made it here after the ort*z essay, please call to mind ort*z's initial point: racism and glass ceilings in the publishing industry are a disgusting, rampant problem. yes, perhaps other books discussing abuse may not have gotten the same hype MDV received. that, in part, may be due to a white woman telling this story. that is certainly an issue. we can't package abuse to be palatable if it is coming from the "right" place, the place we feel is most accessible, relatable, marketable. what is a bigger issue is the conversation of a plagiarism that did not happen eclipsing a stunning debut that will surely stick with you as long as you have memories to grasp. it's a bigger issue to force a survivor to out themselves to attain some sort of depraved credibility because you assumed she couldn't write her version of an abuse narrative. it's an issue to hide when you're in the wrong and refocus the conversation because you don't feel like facing the blowup it causes. take ownership.
several times when i read this book, i needed to put it down and stare into middle distance to really digest what i'd read. i'm glad i kept coming back. i had to. it was a like having a warm blanket wrapped around your shoulders after hearing horrible news. it was so inviting and wonderful while turning your gut in revulsion.
i hope you pick up a copy. i hope you read it when you're ready. i hope you find empathy. i hope you find healing. i hope we get more from russell soon, but if fifteen years is what it takes to bring something else crafted as precariously as my dark vanessa, i'll see you in 2035.
Top international reviews
The story is told from Vanessa’s perspective, both as an adult and teenager. In both timelines she is under Strane’s spell and believes it was a great love affair rather than abuse. But when another of Strane’s former students claims he abused her, Vanessa is forced to reconsider if it was really love and whether she was a willing participant in a loving relationship or a victim of abuse.
Kate Elizabeth Russell has written a novel that is powerful, compelling, timely and thought-provoking. Eighteen years in the making, it feels like this story has come at the perfect time with the rise of the #MeToo movement and the increasing number of victims who are finding the strength to vocalise their experiences. She addresses the nuances of this movement, the pressure put on victims to come forward even if they aren’t ready, and the way the tide can turn so quickly in how they are portrayed.
This isn’t an easy read. The book contained some graphic, nauseating and unsettling scenes of what I consider to be abuse and a number of times I had to put down the book and stop reading for a while. After one particularly distressing scene, I was left feeling utterly broken with tears running down my face. At these times I was especially glad that I was reading this as a buddy read as I was able to talk through my feelings with my reading buddy.
It has been said that Vanessa is an unlikeable character, and it’s true, she’s not particularly warm or bubbly, but I think the decision to make her so complex made the story all the more compelling and real. Victims of any kind of abuse often don’t see what is happening for a long time, if at all, and Vanessa wouldn’t have begun her affair with Strane if it had been obvious to her. Reading her desperation to be noticed and loved by him as she was unwittingly groomed was heartbreaking. In her adult years we see the immense damage he has done to her psyche, her unwillingness to see the truth and tear down the house of straw she’s built in her mind and heart. I couldn’t help but wonder if she would ever be able to heal.
The real unlikeable character was the manipulative, predatory, and vile Strane. But even he has layers to his character and has an awareness that what he wants and does is wrong. He tells himself it’s true love, that they are soulmates, that she is in control and sets himself boundaries. These are all designed to negate the wrong he is doing and reassure himself that he can’t help it and that he is being ‘good’. The tragic part about Strane is that I think he truly believes these things; even when he’s saying the most awful things to scare her into complying or saying it to another girl, I think in his mind it’s actually all true. This made him someone I detested but also, as much as it pains me to say this, pitied very slightly. He was a sad and pathetic man but also a loathsome predator and there were so many times I wanted to reach into the book and do him actual physical harm for what he did to Vanessa.
My Dark Vanessa is the most dark and disturbing fiction book I have ever read. But it is also a well-written story that offers an insight on the intricacies of the dynamic between an abuser and their victim and on the #MeToo movement, filled with characters, situations and emotions that many will recognise. Just be prepared for a distressing read.
In 'My Dark Vanessa', readers are witness to the development of a disturbing relationship between student and teacher. An almost thirty-year age-gap between them, Vanessa is just fifteen-years-old when she attends her first American Literature class, with forty-two-year old teacher, Jacob Strane. It is in this classroom where something dangerous and depraved is discovered, and this something goes on to contaminate every part of Vanessa and her life as the years pass by.
Russell chooses to take the reader back and forth between the past and the present in this novel, thus providing an insight into the beginning of Vanessa's time in Strane's classroom, but also a look at Vanessa now, as an adult. I feel this is the best possible way for the author to tell Vanessa's story. In order for readers to truly understand, I feel it's only right for Russell to take us back to the very start and lead us onwards from there. It opens Vanessa's world up to us in a way that allows no secrets, and we are witness to Vanessa's development as the plot progresses. In the present day, Strane is under scrutiny as claims are surfacing from another woman, who, like Vanessa, is a previous student. Taking social media by storm, Vanessa can only watch as the man she believed she loved, and who she believed loved her back, is accused of the very thing she experienced herself, but by someone else.
This is an extraordinary take on an incredibly sensitive and taboo topic. It's no secret that Russell is a beautiful writer, and in this instance, heart-breakingly so. Her descriptions are so powerful, they only intensify the discomfort felt throughout. The author truly captures the sheer emotional turmoil felt by Vanessa as she looks back at the time she spent with Strane, and the things she thought she knew. This is not an easy book to read. There are many scenes I found unbearable, and I'm certain that if you've read this book too, then you'll know instantly the scenes I'm referring to without me having to say anything else. It's an eye-opening, frightening & gut-wrenching story, and I'm still reeling now. It's one of those I feel you really need to let settle in your mind, because there is just so much to consider while reading it. Vanessa's story evokes anger, fear, confusion and disgust, but on the other side of that, sadness, heartache and grief for a girl who thought she was adored when it was something else entirely. Russell brings forth many, many matters that we are only too aware of in our society today, which I think make this novel all the more compelling.
'My Dark Vanessa' is a stand-out, thought-provoking and deeply disturbing novel, there's no doubt about it. I found it impossible to put down and even long after I finished reading it, it continued to brew in my mind and pull up numerous questions and considerations. Even now I'm thinking about Vanessa Wye, fictional or not. She is a character who will stay with me for a long, long time. This novel is receiving a five out of five rating from me. I can't wrap my head around this being a debut. It was phenomenal, truly.
The book was both easy to read (for being well written and for wanting to know if Vanessa can reconcile herself to what was done to her) and hard to read (because Vanessa holds nothing back and it's hard to feel like we are watching and not helping her). The book explores the confusion that grooming can cause, making a victim feel that they have played a part, have chosen this, have wanted it, the gradual pushing of boundaries and chipping away at Vanessa until she was as lost to herself as possible.
The book has apparently had some controversy and the author criticised for writing about something she hasn't personally experienced, and this is why I bought it. The book is fiction, authors have been writing fiction for years, but I don't think it could be any more honest or accurate and to me it feels sleazy to demand 'authenticity' from an author on this subject. We know it happens in real life, we don't need to feed on real details to have empathy with Vanessa, or to learn from what she goes through. We can read fiction and apply what we gained from it to real life without demanding the author have lived each experience in the book. The one line that really stuck with me was "You were just trying to go to school."
This is such a hard story to read but was also impossible to put down and even more difficult to stop thinking about!
The story centres around Vanessa, the relationship she had with her teacher Jacob Strane when she was 15 years old and how this has impacted her entire life since. The way in which Strane grooms and manipulates Vanessa from the moment they meet, through to her adult life is heartbreaking and I became fully invested in her journey.
It’s by no means an easy read and certain parts and scenes were really unsettling. However, as someone who has previously worked in a world where this was sadly all too common, the way in which the author has portrayed Vanessa’s experience goes a long way to giving the reader an understanding of the damage done.
It’s such a well written book and I could write so much more about it but I will just say I definitely recommend it.
I generally dislike this current trend for writing in the present tense, but in this case it worked well and suited the narrative.
I look forward Ms Russell's next novel.
Without knowing anything about the author I would guess she was either a survivor and this a product of her personal diary notes, or that she has met a lot of survivors and done a lot of research into the mindset of girls who go through these kinds of experiences.
So glad I took this recommendation.