Isabella Wiles

...Has Been Reading

My Dark Vanessa

Kate Elizabeth Russell

Political Fiction

An important topic tackled head on in this dark & supremely honest debut

Although the line writing was beautifully crafted, I marked it down as I felt the second third rambled & lacked any pace, tension or narrative drive.

For me the story could have been structured much better, the loooong chapters chopped up & the overly verbose internal monologue radically reduced.

I was glued in the beginning, then again in the last few chapters, but got seriously bored in the middle as I lost the point of what Vanessa’s driving needs & wants were, & therefore the point to the story the author was trying to portray. What was Vanessa’s goal in all of this - I was unclear & therefore disengaged with the narrative ... & if this hadn’t of been a book club choice I would have probably abandoned it at that point.

Although the author has been interviewed & clear she doesn’t want to discuss the topic area or inspiration behind the story (which is her absolute right), reading her work, it did feel more like a personal exorcism at times rather than a really well-crafted story written for us, her readers.

The book started out feeling almost like a thriller & the tension was high (will he get away with it? Will they get caught? Will she succumb to his grooming?) Then in the middle it changed pace & I wasn’t sure what it became (A love story? A romance? An obsession story?) Then by the final resolution it morphed again into a personal development tale (A maturation style story), and this was confusing for me, not that it isn't possible to combine genres, but just as I was settling into the narration, and the whole point the story was trying to tell, it seemed to jump context again.

Clearly Vanessa is an unreliable narrator due to the damage she’s endured & the number of people who had let her down & that made me have empathy for her as her life spiralled downwards while she continued to justify & defend her abuser. I just wish the author could have found more creative ways to show us this than long monologues with an investigative journalist, therapist or another victim. As soon as Henry came on the page in the final chapters, the whole story ramped up a gear as we were finally going to ‘see’ whether she was going to win her internal battle with her own demons or repeat the same pattern 🤔

So although I commend Russell’s command of the English language (this is beautifully written prose) & her bravery for tackling a difficult subject, I gave it three stars as felt it fell short in my expectations for a brilliantly structured novel with a compelling narrative drive. One that keeps you turning pages long into the night and not just for the sensationalist subject matter.

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Hi, I'm ISABELLA.

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