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My Dark Vanessa

Narrated by: Grace Gummer
Length: 15 hrs and 33 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (47 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A Stylist Best Book of 2020.

An era-defining novel about the relationship between a 15-year-old girl and her teacher.

All he did was fall in love with me and the world turned him into a monster.

Vanessa Wye was 15 years old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now 32 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 our age.  

Includes a bonus conversation with Kate Elizabeth Russell, Grace Gummer, and Jessica Williams (editor of My Dark Vanessa). 

©2020 Kate Elizabeth Russell (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"The book everyone will be talking about." (Louise O'Neill)

"A package of dynamite." (Stephen King)

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    4 out of 5 stars

Great but very dark and depressing

It was interesting to see the aspect of grooming from a victims perspective that is not the norm. Engaging but at the same time many horrible scenes that were hard to stomach.

1 person found this helpful

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Wow. A must.

Captivating story, brilliant voice performances, intriguing characters. This book has an important and haunting story to tell.

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Wow

This book has changed my life! Eye opening and extremely addicting even when hard to listen at some parts. The narration was perfect.

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Gripping story

Very gripping story, couldn't stop listening. I look forward to more novels by this author. This book also has one of the best narrations of any audiobook I've listened to. As the character's age changes do does her style of speaking, and as an actress she really nails the emotional dialogue. Really loved this one!

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One of the best

This book will live with me forever. It was confronting, exciting, distressful, pleasurable, guilt ridden and absolutely stunningly written!! The narrator complimented it perfectly and id love to listen to more of her work. I’m buying a hard copy of this one for sure.

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graphic, sensationised and not helpful

protagonist was still so much under cohoesive control even into thirties. the mental and verbal dialogue was at times so extreme, if author wanted this to make a positive impact then protagonist should have made more of a recovery towards end . also author should have perhaps inserted something within the periphery to show audience that this dialogue is masogynic, cohoesive control, domestic violence or whatever. instead just read like a sleazy mid day movie with kink with no value to cause.

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Thought provoking. Excellent discussion book.

I couldn’t stop reading the first half of the book. The second half was a little disappointing given how good the first half was. It was both fascinating and frustrating having the narrator defending her abuser so vehemently. It would be a great book to discuss with others as there are so many provocative moments in the tale.
The voice narration was excellent. I hope that she does other audible books in the future.

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Brilliant

What an incredible novel. It is beautifully written and deeply emotional. Grace Gummer’s narration is phenomenal!

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  • Lexi
  • 28-05-2020

Interesting But Slow

I wasn’t sure about the authenticity of the 15yr old - seemed too mature to be believable.
I enjoyed the story and I thought it dealt with some really important issues which I was glad to hear more/learn about. I felt the book was really long and could have told the same story in half the words.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-03-2020

My new favourite book but....

I work in a book shop and we get sent proof copies of novels straight from the publisher before they are released to the public.
This book was one I fell in love with last year and have been waiting with baited breath for it to be realesed to the public and on audible (so I can devour it a third time lol)
I cannot recom3nd it highly enough ...BUT...
I don't know what it is, the narators performance is just ...flat.
It might just be because I read it twice and had a pretty solid idea of what I was expecting...

The story itself , although completely fictional, really hits home as a survivor of abuse, it's subtle yet powerful and really makes you think all the way through.
When I finished I remember putting the book down, sitting back and just thinking "whoa"!
It is in the first person and you really connect with vanessa and her point of view as a 15 year old and as an adult. How Mr Strane has shaped the woman she has become...

I would recommend this book to anyone , especially women who might have been in/seen a similar relationship in their own or one of their friends life, but a trigger warning is definitely in effect if you have suffered Serious abuse as it does not sugar coat things.

So anyway
Story 10/10
Narrator 5/10

If you can I would buy the physical book and read it that way, it is just a better experience in my opinion, but if audio book is your only option then go for it.

4 people found this helpful

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  • al
  • 22-04-2020

Right in the feels

This book had a very profound effect on me and made me face down some very tough experiences. I feel like I've been through a spin cycle on a washing machine, like I'm not going to be the same after this book and that can only be a good thing. I feel very conflicted about giving this book 5 stars especially considering such an inflammatory subject matter but to do otherwise would be a grave injustice to the author who tackles the subject in an extremely competent way. I do highly recommend this book but do read at your own risk and be prepared to put it down and come back to it in your own time. It's a tough read but my god was it worth it.
I also adored the narrator who gave the characters a life of their own even during what must have been gruelling reading.

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  • Elle
  • 01-04-2020

Incredible.

Thought provoking and hard to swallow at some parts, but a truly heartbreaking insight into the world of abuse and PTSD.

Says a lot about our culture and I hope we can start some good conversations about this topic as a community.

2 people found this helpful

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  • ML79
  • 11-03-2020

Chilling

It’s worth pointing out I am reviewing this book as someone who has experienced Sexual assaults but not from a teacher.

However, I found aspects of this terrifyingly relatable.

Aware of the controversy with ‘Excavation’ I am listening to that too and so far ( half way through Excavation ) have found them sufficiently different to feel this is not plagiarised and significantly similar to many other experiences I have read, or had related to me to feel aspects are chillingly realistic. The refusal to see behaviour as problematic , to accept blame from the abuser, and most particularly abusers’ language.

I also think Vanessa captures why victims can be terrible jurors- that some of us battle internalised misogyny and deep romanticising of our abuse.

Where I started sympathising with Vanessa has shown me where I need to keep working on myself.


It’s harrowing. And essential.

2 people found this helpful

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  • sin sin minkin
  • 24-05-2020

Uncomfortable. Essential.

Venessa's life, her whole life, is on the floor in this novel, and it is read sublimely by Grace Gummer. Her languid teenager and busted adult are perfect for Venessa's character arc. I'm simplifying, of course. This is a complex story. It pulled me side to side in ways I resisted, but the drop into darkness is important, raw as it is, to experience the simple beauty of Venessa's denouement.

My Dark Vanessa is a brilliant character study, and Gummer is the perfect - the absolutely perfect - voice to narrate it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Paulette Ogola
  • 13-05-2020

Very believable

A lot of the time I found myself extremely annoyed by Vanessa, but that seemed to be the author's intent. That there's no right way to be a victim and we need to extend compassion to victims of sexual abuse even if they're a little nutty and hard to empathise with. Ultimately, it was terrifying seeing how *Strain - not sure how it's spelt - singled out this child like a 3-legged wildebeest from the herd of well-adjusted wildebeest and pursued her. How he manipulated her into thinking that this was what she wanted by asking questions that only had one right answer - it's never 'No'. By making her question if she was being raped. Imagine being so brainwashed that you can't tell the difference between normal sex and rape. Anyway, the book was a mind fuck, frustrating and extremely hard to get through. But it was poignant in all the ways that mattered.

1 person found this helpful

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  • deborah mcentee
  • 07-05-2020

Couldn't stop listening

Some tough listening at times because of the detail and her sadness she feels later in life, but this topic should be hard to hear. Made me understand and think more about why some victims who choose not to come forward later on and PTSD which is something I could never get my head around before.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Emma Pip
  • 30-04-2020

intense, raw, heartbreaking.

This story was very intense and raw. Difficult to read at times. Kate Elizabeth Russell does an amazing job at depicting the horrific abuse Vanessa went through. Including the mental manipulation that even as an adult in her 30s she still struggled to live a somewhat regular life and struggle to accept what really happened. The power imbalance between Strane and Vanessa still in affect over a decade later.
The characters Strane and Vanessa felt so real. In Strane’s case disgustingly real. The way he always found a way to pass all the blame onto her. Making her feel guilty for questioning his behaviour.
“The power you hold over my life is immense. I wonder how it must feel to go about your day, masquerading as an average college girl, all the while knowing you could destroy a man with one well- placed phone call. But I still trust you. I wouldn’t send an incriminating letter if I didn’t.”
Even when she finally says it out loud to him.
“Well, it’s your fault, you know,” I say. A pause. “Ok.” “Everything wrong with me originated with you.” “Let’s not do this.” “You created this mess.” “Baby, go to bed.” “Am I wrong?” I ask. “Tell me I’m wrong.” I stare up at a water stain stretching across the ceiling. Finally, he says, “I know it’s what you believe.”
Strane even puts so much doubt into her mind. That it’s her fault if someone else shows interest. That she caused it. She is to always be blamed.
“Vanessa, stay away from him,” he says. I screw up my face, fake indignation. “What are you talking about?” “Be a good girl,” he says. “You know what you’re capable of.”
Throughout the book there are moments Vanessa knows the truth. But it’s like she is too afraid of what that truly means. My heart broke for her. She was so young and he preyed on her. Using her insecurities. Even up until the end. He never gave her a chance.
“I just really need it to be a love story. You know? I really, really need it to be that.” “I know,” she says. “Because if it isn’t a love story, then what is it?”
I can’t say I enjoyed this. This isn’t the type of book you enjoy. It’s a,book that leaves you uncomfortable. A book that stays with you. It’s so well written.
Throughout the book I just wanted to take Vanessa away from him. Protect her. Help her see the truth. Get to the point of acceptance. To where she can start to find a way through it. To stop letting him ruin her life.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Morag Cooper
  • 08-05-2020

what a fantastic story

I loved the book it is so emotionally Dark great story far a novice brighter

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  • Punam Madan Patel
  • 07-05-2020

Very engaging

Excellent audio book. Interesting and well narrated. I would highly recommend this for any listener.