Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Title: My Dark Vanessa

Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell

Pages: 384 Pages

Publisher: 4th Estate

The Blurb

Vanessa Wye was fifteen-years-old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.

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.

Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues our age.

The Review

It is rare that I will come across a book that makes me feel so deeply uncomfortable but My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell has done just that.

It is the story of Vanessa Wye. We follow her through different periods of her life. Mainly her formative teen years and post high school into adulthood. The story centres on one major event that happens to her as a teenager and how it has had a profound impact on her life thereafter.

At the age of fifteen, Vanessa embarked on a relationship with her English teacher.

Now as an audience we know that this is wrong. It is legally and morally wrong which puts us in the position of feeling that Vanessa has been violated. However, Vanessa doesn’t see it like that. Even as an adult she maintains that nothing was wrong.

This is where our moral dilemma comes in. If we trust our narrator then surely we trust her judgement on this situation. You want to believe in your narrator but your head is battling with what you know is wrong and what you know is right.

My Dark Vanessa is a powerful story but be prepared for it to make you feel uncomfortable.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell is available now.

For more information regarding 4th Estate (@4thEstateBooks) please visit

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