Hello Book Dragons,
The book I will be talking about today is an extremely discomforting one. Today’s book, titled My Dark Vanessa is an extremely important book and should be read by everyone. Thanks to HarperCollins India for providing me with a proof copy.
Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.
2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.
2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?
Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.
We all have heard about Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and many of you must have read it already. My Dark Vanessa deals with a similar theme but it has a completely different tone and the story about Vanessa is revealed through somewhat of a back-story.
Gosh, reading this book was heart-wrenching. I don’t want to give away too much of the story because there’s just so much to understand and I want you guys to have the full impact. Vanessa, as an adult reminisces over her childhood and once her buried childhood memories are out in the open, she tries to assess the relationship between her fifteen-year-old self and the forty-two year old English teacher, Jacob Strane.
You all would have probably mouthed the word “paedophile” by now and there’s no doubt that Jacob was a paedophile but that’s not the point. The book explores themes of consent, complicity and victimhood which are extremely important ones, especially in a setting like this. Seeing Vanessa question her feelings of her troubled teenage years was painful to witness. She questions whether she was a wilful participant in the relationship or was she abused? This state of Vanessa is written so thoughtfully that Russell captured Vanessa confused mental state so aptly.
My Dark Vanessa is a debut novel by Kate Elizabeth Russell but I didn’t even know it was a debut novel! Russell has opted for a writing style that is both haunting and lyrical. My Dark Vanessa is a book that will stay with me for a long time. The Sisters Grimm was my first favourite book of this year and I have finally found my favourite of this year!
Please, please read it. It’s a book that needs to be read and discussed.
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: Love a heart-wrenching YA Fiction that will make you think twice? Read my review of The Sky is Mine to know why it’s one of my recent favourites. 🌻
Until next time,