ALL HE DID WAS FALL IN LOVE WITH ME AND THE WORLD TURNED HIM INTO A MONSTER
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 of our age.
Ooh, I’ll start by saying that this was a hard book to review, not because it isn’t brilliant but because the content has really disturbed me. Why, you might ask?To some degree on the sexual assault scale, I’d be surprised if most teenage girls haven’t met a Jacob Strane or if now grown up, can look back and question the motives or comments of someone from their past. Whether he be recognised by a passing comment that is made or an inappropriate touch, or a declaration of how wonderful his intended victim is when they see a vulnerable teen screaming out for recognition and attention. Maybe he’s your creepy uncle who turns up for Christmas or a neighbour that gets too close. The one that ‘accidentally’ groped you when you collided in a shop. Or did he buy you things just to keep you alone in his company? There are so many scenarios that I can come up with but I know most women and men too will know or have known a Jacob.
This novel needed to be written and it needs to be read. It expertly plays with the complexities of grooming, love bombing, gaslighting, manipulation, and the devastating hold a perpetrator can have on their victim for years to come. The mind games played on Vanessa broke my heart. It’s serious and uncomfortable.
The novel also references Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (amongst other poignant works of literature) which is a book I read last year and chose not to review as I struggled to find the words. ‘Her Dark Vanessa’ is written from the victim’s point of view but Lolita took me straight into the mind of a sex predator, preying on children. It too sounds like a hard read but if anyone has kids and is thinking about it, all I can say is, know your enemy.
I found Vanessa’s denial sad. He totally played her, making her believe she held the power when really the manipulation was so deep, he took her schoolgirl infatuation and used every bit of it against her. It has an uncannily real feel to it. I can wholeheartedly believe that this predator is a real person. He exists in so many. I feel a little shell shocked so I think I might need a lie down to digest it all.
In all seriousness, I think it is a must read. It’s honest, scary, terrifying even, but I know it might help others come to terms with what they’ve been through if they read it. Anything that breaks down any feelings of shame can only be a good thing!
Thanks for reading!
Why not check out one of my other reviews? Maybe you’ll find your perfect read.
Lost Souls by Chris Merritt – review. https://griffbuck.wordpress.com/2021/02/09/lost-souls-by-chris-merritt-review/
Carla Kovach – author of Amazon and iBooks bestselling DI Gina Harte crime series.