Hello book friends, how are we all doing so far with the lockdown?
I hope that you are all safe and reading some great books.
One that you won’t go far wrong with, is this one.
OK, before we start, I need to make something VERY clear, although I occasionally pop in a trigger warning or two if I think a book warrants it.
This one has TRIGGER WARNING written in capital blinking red flashing lights – If you do not like reading about the following, then I would steer clear of this one if it is a trigger for you.
That being said, I still gave this book 5 big stars.
It is a story told from the POV of Vanessa, it flips between now and then, then being when she was a 15 year old school girl.
If you are not aware of the context of the book, here we go!!
Vanessa is 32 years old, and still really struggling with life, she hasn’t settled down with anyone, and finds it incredibly difficult to hold down any kind of relationship with a man. She is in a spiral of drink, drugs and one night stands, that is because she always finds herself drifting back and daydreaming about her ex lover Jacob Strane.
This love affair would be all very well and Ok, BUT this love affair happened when she was 15 years old, and Strane? Well Strane was her Forty Two year old teacher, that she is still in contact with today. Yes you read that right!
Even though we know, and can clearly see the red flags waving helplessly in our faces as we watch 15 yr old Vanessa fall deeply in love with her teacher, he is a master at manipulation, gas-lighting and grooming her, so much so, that she believes that this “relationship” is absolutely real, and when he tells her that he loves her, she doesn’t think anything different, why would she?
His hand slips out from under my skirt and he slides like liquid out of his chair and onto the floor. Kneeling before me, he lays his head on my lap and says, “I’m going to ruin you”.
Strane is an English teacher, who likes to flaunt his cleverness at Vanessa to make her feel inadequate, but also like to make her feel ‘special’ by giving her presents, like a book for example, I mean, what student wouldn’t be happy with a copy of Lolita 😮
But to Vanessa, that book reads like a love story, their love story!!
And this is why Vanessa can not see what is happening to her, even though you as a reader are SCREAMING at her to run, to just tell someone, ANYONE!!
But now Vanessa has reached 32, and Strane is contacting her about a possible sexual abuse case that he is being accused of, but obviously she wasn’t abused, she was different, wasn’t she? And if she is a victim, what does that make her now?
I can’t lose the thing I’ve held onto for so long, you know?” My face twists up from the pain of pushing it out.
“I just really need it to be a love story, you know? I really, really need it to be that.”
“I know,” she says.
“Because if it isn’t a love story, then what is it”?
I look to her glassy eyes, her face of wide open empathy. “It’s my life,” I say. “This has been my whole life.”
Despite the subject content, which is sometimes very graphic (you have been warned) I couldn’t stop listening to this audiobook, the narration was brilliant, and the story was very complex and beautifully written.
I absolutely disagree with the people saying that they are conflicted, was it love or was it abuse?, and did she instigate it or was she manipulated? The answer to both of these questions is SHE WAS 15 YEARS OLD!!!
This book will certainly make you uncomfortable, and that is good, because it also shows us that the world through a teenagers eyes are sometimes not as cut and dry as we think, sometimes they don’t even know what they are getting themselves into, sometimes they think that it *is* love.
I would highly recommend this book, especially in audio form.
Brilliantly narrated by Grace Gummer, she told a fantastic tale and I will certainly be looking out for other books she has narrated.
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.