My Dark Vanessa

My Dark Vanessa

Kate Elizabeth Russell

Pub date
Fourth Estate
A4 153x234mm
384 pages
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Book Overview

‘The book everyone will be talking about’ Louise O’Neill
‘A package of dynamite’ Stephen King

A Stylist Best Book of 2020

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


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 our age.

About the author

Kate Elizabeth Russell is originally from eastern Maine. She holds a PhD in creative writing from the University of Kansas and an MFA from Indiana University. My Dark Vanessa is her first novel.


  • ‘A hard story to read and a harder one to put down … a package of dynamite’ Stephen King
  • ‘A remarkable debut, deeply thoughtful, deeply emotional, compelling and disturbing in equal measure’ Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
  • ‘A brilliant and stunning debut … utterly truth-rattling, humane in its clarity and chilling in its resonance. An absolute must read’ Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl ‘Fascinating and devastating and brilliant. I loved it’ Kristen Roupenian, author of You Know You Want This: ‘Cat Person’ and Other Stories
  • ‘Riveting and compulsive, My Dark Vanessa unsettles with every sentence. A novel that asks urgent questions and refuses easy answers’ Elizabeth Day, author of How to Fail
  • ‘Unsettling, compulsive and deeply thought provoking. Extremely well done’ Harriet Tyce, author of Blood Orange
  • ‘Gripping, dark, prescient and searing in its emotional honesty,My Dark Vanessa is a must read of the year’ Sarah Pinborough, author of Behind Her Eyes and Cross Her Heart
  • ‘I can’t remember the last time a book hooked me like My Dark Vanessa … a brilliant, chilling portrait of manipulation and abuse of power’ Jane Casey, author of The Missing and Cruel Acts
  • ‘Powerful, compulsive and brilliant … Such a skilled, terrifying depiction of the grooming of a vulnerable 15-year-old girl by her English teacher. An important book, we should all read it’ Marian Keyes, author of Grown Ups
  • ‘A provocative and disturbing exploration of what happens when manipulation feels like love. More than anything else, Russell pushes us to reconsider everything we believe about what a “perfect” victim looks like. Challenging and uncompromising, My Dark Vanessa is the book everyone will be talking about in 2020’ Louise O’Neill, author of Asking For It
  • ‘My Dark Vanessa is about story-telling and manipulation and the manipulation of those stories. It is destined to be a hit’ Pandora Sykes