Author(s): Kate Elizabeth Russell
'The book everyone will be talking about' Louise O'Neill 'A package of dynamite' Stephen King
An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacher
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.
My Dark Vanessa swallows the reader whole and dredges them up later, completely spent but utterly enthralled.
The writing is beautiful and reminded me of The Secret History in parts, perhaps because of the all-encapsulating world that school can feel like. Vanessa is 15 and heading back to another year at Browick, a boarding school glowing in the autumn sunshine, surrounded by maple trees and alive with secrets. Still depressed from a fall out with her room-mate and best friend from the previous semester, Vanessa feels starkly alone amongst the groups and cliques, and pretends she doesn't care. Her new English class is taught by the enigmatic Mr Strane, who shows an increasing amount of interest in her poetry, then starts to lend her books - stories that she devours for the messages she feels he is trying to convey to her, especially Lolita. His compliments and obvious attraction to her flatter and delight her teen romantic sensibilities until she is as obsessed with him as he is with her. They hurtle down a slippery slope and years later in her 30s, Vanessa is still living in his shadow and still in contact. A young woman who was also in his class comes forward and says he abused her, and tries to get Vanessa to tell her story too, to expose him for the predator he is. But Vanessa is sure that her story with him is different, that it was really love. It's both heartbreaking and enraging, and very insightful. Jemma
A thought-provoking perspectiove that explores power and consent. Timely and gripping -- April