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Book Review // My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

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Release Date: 23rd January 2020
Publisher: 4th Estate
Genre: Contemporary
Length: 384 Pages
Source: Netgalley
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

*Thanks to 4th Estate for providing my with a copy of this book through netgalley.

*Since reading this My Dark Vanessa has become a topic of conversation over on twitter and I just wanted to address that before going into the review. A Mexican author took to Twitter and wrote this essay pointing out that there are similarities between her memoir ‘Excavation’ and My Dark Vanessa. Going on to say how much of a struggle it was for her to get published, alluding to the fact My Dark Vanessa received a 7 figure sum upon publication. 

This prompted Kate to reveal that My Dark Vanessa is based on her own experiences, defending herself against accusations of plagiarism. Other people on Twitter have also confirmed they’ve been reading various drafts of this book for the past 10 years. This book is not plagiarism or based on anyone else’s story. But the other side of this dicussion is very interesting. This is a really good example of how the publishing industry would prefer to publish and promote a fictionalised, white version of a story rather than the true events of a mexican immigrant.

Hi Readers

I always find books such as this difficult to gather my thoughts around. It’s story, which revolves around sexual abuse and grooming and the mental impacts of that on the victim make it a very memorable and impactful. I found this a brave and honest story, and I found it to be very thought-provoking.

This is told from the perspective of Vanessa, both as a 15 year old and a 32 year old.
At 15 she is having an affair with her 42 year old teacher. She is convinced what she is experiancing is love.
At 32 Vanessa is living in a world where the Me Too movement is headline news. That same teacher is now facing multiple sexual assault charges and Vanessa is faced with the realities of her past.

Characters

This being told from the POV of a girl who is so sure that what she experiencing is love, not abuse, makes for a very uncomfortable read. At 15 she loses her best friend and becomes very isolated because of it. Her teacher takes advantage of her loneliness and low self-esteem, grooming her and making her believe she is the one in control.

The psychological impact of that is still so prominent 17 years later, showing the long-term damage assault can do. His manipulation caused her to cling to him so years later she is still very much reliant and controlled by him.

Writing

This is a debut novel but it never feels that way. The poetic writing makes for a very immersive reading experience, which means you really have to be in the right frame of mind to read it. It’s dark and suffocating but that just makes it all the more impactful.

Plot

Revolving around sexual assault and abuse, something that occurs daily in our society, makes this a very powerful read. In the current Me Too movement stories and voices such as this are momentous and need to be shared. This story had me gripped and I both didn’t want to read on and just had to turn the page to find out more.

Would I Read Again? Yes
Would I Recommend: Yes, but content warning for sexual assault.

Thanks for reading,
Jess X

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