Monday, March 16, 2020

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

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2 Stars

When I was denied an advance copy of this selection, my initial reaction was . . . .

Which translates to “a disgusting garbage person with zero triggers who wants to read all of the potentially disturbing things.”

Luckily I live in a city with one of the greatest library systems imaginable and I was able to snag this from the “New and Notable” shelf before COVID-19 shut down the entire universe.. In case you aren’t aware of what My Dark Vanessa is about – it is the story of an affair between a 15-year old student and her 42-year old English teacher. It is presented in the wibbly-wobbly time format with chapters both in the present (2017 coinciding with #timesup) back to 2007 when the relationship began and gradually works its way back to the present. It was one of the most highly anticipated new releases of 2020 and is receiving rave reviews across the internet. So, of course I read it wrong.

I will concede that the content is “dark” (for lack of a better term). I’m not going to go into the realism of events or not due to the fact that I never had any personal experience with this subject matter. I can only assume it is fairly accurate in its depiction when it comes to a child being “groomed” and the feelings each party experiences in the immediate aftermath as well as for years to come. I will say, however, that although there are scenes of a graphic nature, it certainly didn’t come off as an attempt to titillate or for shock and awe. If you don’t read books as black as Mitchell’s soul on the regular, you’ll be flabbergasted. If you gravitate toward those types of stories already, this one probably isn’t going to have you clutching your pearls any more than any other novel containing squicky themes. The presentation was more matter-of-fact – a/k/a “this happened, this is how it happened, this is what was said while it happened, this is how I felt when it happened,” etc. It’s like one never-ending therapy session where the patient is stuck in a limbo of denial. If I ever interacted with other humans willingly I would love to sit in on a random book club and hear the conversations that could be generated after reading this – from the Me Too Movement to who gets the right to label someone a victim and exactly what equates assault/harassment/rape/etc. Assuming the room didn’t break out in fisticuffs, it would be a real eye opener regarding people’s individual opinions. It’s a shame Oprah got bullied into removing it as her March selection.

Realistically, though, this can’t receive more than 2 Stars from me due to the fact that it took me three solid days to trudge through it and I found my interest waning repeatedly. The writing certainly does not hold a candle to Nabokov (but if you take a drink every time he/his works are mentioned you’ll be in the ER getting your stomach pumped) and drones on and on for far too many pages with no progression ever made in the storyline. Bottom line I found it exhausting. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut, I always give props to writers who are willing to take a risk and this book is most definitely risky so you go Glenn Coco.

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