Uncomfortable yet powerful
My Dark Vanessa can not at all be described as an enjoyable read, but it is a thought provoking and compelling one. It tells the story of Vanessa and her relationship with her teacher when she was fifteen years old. Rather than playing the victim she truly believes what they had was special. But when other confessions from other girls start to come forward Vanessa realises she might not have been as special or unique as she thought. It's an interesting viewpoint to give on a very hot topic at the moment in the height of #MeToo. Vanessa's narrative makes for a hard read as she defends and pines after her abuser. The plot brings up important discussion points on the ideas of rape and the views of society - as well as highlights the failing of the school systems at that point in time. The teacher Strane is a well-developed character - we hear all of his manipulation and justifications through her and as a reader we beg her to see sense and leave him.
The book itself changes perspective between flashbacks of the past when Vanessa is fifteen and the present where she is in her thirties and still trying to move on. My only criticism here was in the Kindle edition I read it was a little hard to tell the time jumps as they seemed to occur randomly within chapters which made it a little jolting. Perhaps a heading with the date for each jump or a simple 'Now' and 'Then' would have helped this out a little. In general, the book also seemed a little too long, although the story was engaging, we could have done with a little less of some sections - particularly towards the end. I felt the ending was a little disappointing - a missed opportunity but perhaps that is what makes the book feel realistic - there is no neat fairy-tale ending to tie it all together.
Although emotionally hard to read in places the book is engaging and flowed easily. You are easily drawn to see Vanessa's point of view and you feel her pain throughout. Some parts of the book are triggering and uncomfortable but that's to be expected with this subject matter.
Overall, My Dark Vanessa is a dark, uncomfortable, powerful and compelling read - just make sure to read the blurb before deciding if it's for you. Thank you to NetGalley & 4th Estate for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.