My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell a hard look at abuse and the psychology of the victim that comes with it. This novel is powerful, because you can feel the truth in the words and actions. The story is fiction but yet feels so real. The novel is challenging in it’s descriptions of abuse. I found the denial of Vanessa challenging as well, you want to hug her and at the same time shaker out of her feelings to wake her up. despite all the challenging I found the psychology of it beautiful, as we see the breakdowns of each moment. My Dark Vanessa could be a good outlet for those who need it, but there are a lot of triggers, that will be too much for some. This is one of those books that I acknowledge that it is good but never want the reread and be in that head space again.
The Plot: Vanessa is a bright young student, with big dreams. She begs her parents to go to a prestigious boarding school. We meet Vanessa at 15 in her second year of boarding school in 2000, her roommate Jenny and used to be best friend, has a boyfriend and no time for Vanessa. She finds a kinship in a middle aged literature teacher Jacob Strane. Vanessa’s adoration for Strane soon turns to lust. He makes a passing gesture of layered with innuendos, his knee touches hers, and his hand rest on her lap. He gives her the infamous book Lolita. Vanessa young and naive thinks this is a love story. The novel move to 2017 at the height of the Me Too movement, where a journalist has tracked Vanessa at 34 down as a former students and students have came forward with abuse charges against Strane. Vanessa must answer hard truths about herself and her past.
What I Liked: How raw the emotions are throughout the novel. The flipping back and forth in time worked, with the me too movement going on in present day and the abuse happening in order in the past. I liked the ending, It doesn’t ended in a big revelation, it ends with a slight acknowledgement, and more work to do. I liked all the literature and poetry references. I liked how the me too movement was worked in too the story and how it never felt forced. Me TOO wasn’t mentioned but hinted at. I liked the coping mechanism was telling herself it was a great love story.
What I Disliked: I found the dialogue to be stale. I felt Strane with his love of great works and education would have a bigger vocabulary than what was for his dialogue.
Recommendation: I think people should read this book for the psychology of abuse alone. The story is not the easiest to handle at times, and those with past traumas should tread lightly. There’s a truth to the story that is undeniable. I rated My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell 4 out of 5 stars.