My Dark Vanessa

By Megan Thomas

Wow, what a powerful and disturbing read. I’ll start with a trigger warning: this novel contains themes of grooming, rape and sexual harassment.

We are offered a window into the life of Vanessa Wye, both as a 15 year old and in her early 30s. When she was 15, she entered into a sexual relationship with her 45 year old teacher, Jacob Strane… or at least, she believes it was a relationship – a consenting, loving one into which she voluntarily entered. It is a truly uncomfortable reading experience “knowing better”, seeing toxic patterns and manipulative, coercive behaviour unfold between an old man and a child, but also having the first person narrator unquestionably believe the opposite to be true.

It’s then 2017, allegations are coming out amidst the #MeToo movement, and a number of women report Strane as having harassed them when they were his students. Though shaken, especially by a previous student asking her to tell her story, Vanessa doesn’t want to be a part of it, because she doesn’t believe the other girls, and she still believes hers to be a love story.

This is a story about the psychological effects of abuse at such a young age, as well as the ripple effect it has long after it is “over”. Or perhaps rather the identification of the fact that it can never be over? My Dark Vanessa is passionately, creatively written and the fact that such a dark story can still be so compelling is testimony to the quality of the writing.

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