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Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Book Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Holy crap. Believe the hype surrounding My Dark Vanessa! This is one of the best and most compelling books I’ve read all year - or perhaps, ever!

“Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.”
My Dark Vanessa is almost overwhelming with how relevant and powerful it is. It tells the story of Vanessa Wye, and the relationship she had with her English teacher which started when she was only 15 years old and he was almost 30 years her senior. The story goes back and forth, flitting between detailing the beginning and development of their relationship, and present day, where Vanessa is now 32 years old, and her former teacher is being accused of sexual abuse by other students.

I’m in awe that this is Russell’s debut novel - the writing is simply incredible, there were so many parts that just floored me. She deals with the topic at hand in such a raw and visceral way, at no point does she shy away. As a result, it makes for a highly uncomfortable read, but that’s exactly what it needs to be.

There are a lot of comparisons to Lolita, but I personally found MDV to be a much more enjoyable and accessible read. It’s from the viewpoint of the victim, so you’re not privy to the predator’s unsettling thoughts - although he still makes me feel ILL. This is important as it really lets you see how such a vile person can groom someone to come around to their own way of thinking. There are of course trigger warnings for sexual abuse and rape.

It’s a frustrating read at times - you want to shake Vanessa and scream “THIS ISN’T LOVE!” but once the frustration wears off, you’re just left feeling overwhelmingly sad. When I wasn’t reading this one, I was thinking about it or talking about it... and itching to get back to it. MDV will live long in the memory.

Seriously cannot recommend this one enough! It’s poignant and important, whilst also being heartbreaking and haunting, thank you so much to @ab_reads for lending me her review copy!

5 stars!

Johann
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