My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell told a story of Vanessa Wye and her ill-suited relationship with 27 years older man, Jacob Strane. Why ill-suited? Cause she was 15-year old when the affair began at the boarding school where Strane taught. In alternate chapters, Vanessa recounted her present (2017) and past (2000s). In the wake of #metoo movement with all the scandals and allegation of powerful men in 2017, Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former students.

Since the beginning, Vanessa believed it was true love. When their affair was found out, she was suspended from the boarding school whereas Strane remained teaching there. She became a total mess. She continue to delud that they had something special and kept seeing him the following years. When a journalist contacted Vanessa to be part of her article in support of another girl’s story for Strane’s scandal, she was in despair. She didn’t considered the affair as a sexual abuse. He was her first love.

The book highly referenced Nabokov’s Lolita and a few other literature and films which included the theme of relationship between a young girl and elder man. The book has also been pretty controversial, too. Through her characters, the writer talked about various aspects such as, allegation and victimhood, ages and consent, PTSD, depression, and therapy treatment. The author dedicated for women whose stories have not yet been heard, believed, or understood.

I almost stopped reading it as my stomach couldn’t handle it anymore at some point. The writing was concise yet can sometimes be a bit too graphic. In some intimate scenes, I was so flabbergasted that I have to skip a few lines but my curiousity of ‘what will become of Vanessa?’ won over, I guess. It was a discomforting read, albeit its brilliant storytelling.


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