My Dark Vanessa
You feel every inch of it.
As soon as this arrived for Bronte I knew I had to grab it. As a warning, this book and therefore this review talk about child abuse.
So apart form the fact that the cover is amazing the idea that a book could be written about child abuse at first perplexed me, so I had to dig in and see what it was all about.
As a start I want to say that this book is written so well, it doesn't try to be anything other than an account, a story told from Vanessa's perspective. At its essence, it is her telling the story of her first love, an obsession that destroyed her, dark yet somehow beautiful. You find yourself getting pulled along with it and then you have to stop and realise that she is a 15-year-old school girl and he is a much older teacher. And I think this is what makes this book so good; we are reading the relationship as she saw it, which changes and shifts as she gets older and with what she goes through. It's messed up, uncomfortable and yet you still find yourself fascinated. drawn in and sometimes unable as she is to see the abuse which, let me tell you, messes with your head. at times, I even found myself feeling for the abuser and somehow seeing what he was saying as romantic.
I don't know how someone can write a story of child abuse and yet have you understanding it somehow; it is honestly a masterpiece.
As an ex-police officer who dealt with many child abuse cases similar to this, a 15-year-old girl with an older man, I could see so much of Vanessa in the girls I had spoken to who went through similar; the belief it was somehow their fault, the belief that it was love and the belief that they are in a normal relationship and the rest of us just don't understand or can't see it.
I think that it's all to easy sometimes for outsiders to see abuse just a abuse and forget that for the girl it felt like something else. It's far too easy from the outside to judge why someone doesn't speak up and report, yet often we fail to see how nuanced these situations can be, how carefully we often need to tread and however many times you tell a girl that she was abused, she will only believe you when she believes you. As heart-breaking and bizarre as this is, it's the uncomfortable truth. These girls are groomed so well that they believe, while they know it's wrong for them, that it's right.
I think that everyone reading this book will have a different reaction, will see it differently and will have their own personal experience with it and I don't know many books that do that.
We follow Vanessa from the early days to her later adulthood, oscillating between the past and present with ease, seeing what happened then and the impact it is still having on her and her own inability to believe what happened was wrong. There were tears for me in the end as we finally see a spark of closure for Vanessa and a glimmer of what might come but its fleeting, just mentioned and nothing that leaves you celebrating.
I didn't think I'd love this book as much as I did, I wasn't sure it would tell the whole story, but boy it really does; you feel every inch of it. It messes with your mind, your way of viewing your world and your emotions in a way that are hard to make sense of .
It's not out until January 2020, but honestly if you can handle these sorts of books, please give this a read. It really is the testimony of a victim in a way we so rarely see.