Book Review – My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell Published by @4thEstateBooks #MyDark Vanessa #BookReview

“The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse” –Edmund Burke

Disturbing, compelling, and haunting are just a few words I’d use to describe My Dark Vanessa, which as the title suggests is a dark tale, concerning abuse. Set in and around Maine in the US, and recounted across two timelines, this is the story of 15-year-old Vanessa Wye’s love affair with her 42-year-old high school English teacher, Jacob Strane. At least, that’s how Vanessa prefers to remember it. What it really is, of course, is the complex story of a young girl who was targeted and groomed by an older man.

The opening chapter begins in 2017. Vanessa is in her early 30s and disillusioned with life and masks her disappointment by smoking too much pot and drinking too much alcohol. She discovers, via social media, that a former pupil from a private school she once attended has publicly accused her former English teacher of abuse, making Vanessa reconsider what she believes was the great love affair of her life. “When Strane and I met [she says], I was fifteen and he was forty-two. A near perfect thirty years between us. That’s how I described the difference back then––perfect.”

As the story unravels, we flit back and forth in time between Vanessa as she is now and Vanessa as she was before; a young, impressionable, lonely schoolgirl with a burgeoning crush on her charismatic teacher. Sadly though, Vanessa struggles to accept she was abused, convinced her relationship with Strane was “different”. However, the author uses Vanessa’s heightened sense of uniqueness to show the reader what it feels like to be groomed. How Strane uses Vanessa’s vulnerability to his advantage by telling her she’s “special” and how, like him, she is a “dark romantic”.

Brilliantly written, tragically sad, and emotively dark. My Dark Vanessa makes for an uneasy, troubling, but insightful and compulsive read.

Eva Jordan in conversation with award winning book blogger @annecater

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of bringing you some great interviews with some amazing authors, however, this month I thought we’d take a look at one of the many unsung heroes of the book world, namely Book Blogger Anne Cater, whose award-winning Book Blog, Random Things Through My Letterbox, recently celebrated its 10th birthday. Among other things, Anne writes book reviews for the Daily Express, the Sunday Express Magazine, the Daily Mirror, and regularly organises blog tours for authors.

Hi Anne, thanks for chatting with me. Can you tell us all a bit about yourself?

Hi Eva, thanks so much for inviting me.  I’m 54 years old and live in a small market town in Lincolnshire, with my husband and our cat.
I spent most of my career working in the voluntary sector and the NHS but am now a full-time Blog Tour organiser. I work with big publishers, small independent publishers, PR agencies and directly with authors.

Have you always enjoyed reading books? When did you first become a book blogger?

My Mum taught me to read at an early age. She was a big reader, she loved romance, and sagas and I read all of her books after she had.

I am never without a book. The only time that I didn’t read for more than two days was when I was very ill in hospital, but other than that, I have read every single day since I was aged around 4.

I started my blog, Random Things Through My Letterbox in March 2011.

As such a prolific reader, have you ever considered writing a book yourself?

Lots of people ask that question!  People have told me to write a book, but honestly, I just don’t have a story to tell. I wish I did.

And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a book blogger?

It’s hard work. Building a name takes time and dedication. It’s not just about ‘free books’, whilst it is an honour to receive so many books in the post, it can also be incredibly stressful.

Everyone wants you to read and review their book. You really have to pace yourself, only accept the books that you really want to read.

Do it your own way, there’s no right or wrong way at all, just don’t include spoilers in your reviews.

Join the bookish community on social media. Talk to other bloggers, to publishers, to authors online. Share your blog posts. Don’t just Tweet them once and then never mention them again. If you love a book, shout about it, and keep shouting.

Enjoy it. If it starts to become a chore, or feel like work, then stop. It’s supposed to be a fun hobby, something different from work. A release, a place to be happy.

Of course, if you wish to generate an income from blogging, then that’s fine too, but again, it will take a lot of work. Book Blogging is not something that will make you rich!

Thanks for being such a great guest, Anne xx

If you’d like to know more about Anne, I highly recommend a visit to her wonderful website and Blog Random Things Through My Letterbox