My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell @4thestatebooks @wmcollinsbooks @HarperCollinsUK #review #blog #womenspsychologicalfiction

I was absolutely thrilled to receive a copy of this NY Times Bestseller. It leaves a deep impression on the reader long after the book has finished. Profound, disturbing, and haunting, abuse is not everyone’s cup of tea. You’ll feel every layer of Vanessa’s personality, her struggles and her strength, and you’ll suffer along with her until the bitter end.

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 

My Dark Vanessa: A Novel by [Russell, Kate Elizabeth]

US link

“Russell manages a brutal originality. . . . [an] exceedingly complex, inventive, resourceful examination of harm and power.” —The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice

“To call this book a ‘conversation piece’ or ‘an important book’ feels belittling . . . [it] is so much more than that. It’s a lightning rod. A brilliantly crafted novel.”—The Washington Post

A most anticipated book by The New York Times • USA Today • Entertainment Weekly • Marie Claire • Elle • Harper’s Bazaar • Bustle • Newsweek • New York Post • Esquire •  Real Simple • The Sunday Times • The Guardian 

Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

Review

One of the deepest novels I’ve read this year. A powerfully chilling book, it weaves every type of abuse imaginable into one story. Women will resonate with Vanessa and hopefully find the courage to tell their own stories so they no longer feel alone, undermined, and barely existing in self-doubt. But it is also a book for men.

Vanessa (15) is a lonely girl longing to be loved and typical of girls her own age, a loner. Dumped by her best friend, she is dangerously vulnerable to the predatory Strane; a master manipulator and narcissist. Central to the plot is her loyalty and the chipping away of her own identity which, if left alone, would have developed at its own speed. You can’t help thinking what life might have been like for Vanessa if Strane hadn’t polluted it, and in this way the novel examines Strane’s ruthlessness and exploitation of her youth. She is puzzlingly obsessed with a man so much older than herself and with few physical attributes a girl of her age would naturally find attractive. But there is a meeting of the minds, an academic magnetism that draws her to Strane; the catalyst being the book Lolita, given to Vanessa by Strane. In Lolita, Humbert is obsessed with ‘nymphets’ aged from 9 – 14, and as Lo unwittingly stretches her legs across Humbert’s excited lap, so too does Vanessa in Strane’s study. This is how she defines love.

As the relationship progresses, Vanessa is blind to Strane’s disturbed personality — irritatingly so — because she is oblivious to his motive. Strane’s greed causes indescribable pain and tragedy to Vanessa alone, where she is expelled from a school she loves in order to protect his name. The frustration a reader may feel is Vanessa’s powerlessness and emotional immaturity, and most importantly the lack of statutory rape laws to protect her. The issue here is that Vanessa doesn’t feel she’s been raped because she’s in love, and Strane, in his own twisted way, loves her. She is inescapably bound to him and cannot form attachments with boys of her own age. Neither Taylor nor a reporter, desperately trying to build a case about Strane, can get through to Vanessa. Even Vanessa’s counsellor has met her match.

The relationship continues outside the school for a brief period until she is too ‘old’ to satisfy Strane’s fantasies. We see her robbed of her innocence too early to understand its complexities and the damage incurred by Strane’s selfishness. Weed smoking and drinking aside, Vanessa is already on a downward trajectory, although I kept hoping for retribution as a result of Strane’s sudden diffidence.

I found the last third of the book a little lacklustre compared to the opening chapters which are an emotional roller-coaster. Gripping and horrifying, it’s hard to put down because you ache for Vanessa and you hope she will see the light. Parts of it were so emotional for me I had to put it down for a while to process what I’d just read.

Beautifully written and riveting from start to finish, the after-effects will be with the reader for months to come.

Thank you to @Netgalley, the author and the publisher for an advance copy of this book.

About the Author

Kate Elizabeth RussellKate Elizabeth Russell was born and raised in eastern Maine. She holds an MFA from Indiana University and a PhD from the University of Kansas. My Dark Vanessa is her first novel.

 

 

 

My Dark Vanessa: The Biggest Debut Novel of 2020 

vanessa quote card

What people are saying:

“Exquisite… My Dark Vanessa stands on its own as simultaneously specific and universal—about a young woman who believes she’s in a love story when she’s actually in a psychological horror film.” (Los Angeles Times)

My Dark Vanessa: The Biggest Debut Novel of 2020 by [Russell, Kate Elizabeth]

UK Link

“This timely, riveting debut illuminates the interplay between a child’s heartbreaking confusion and the deepest perversions of power.” (People, Book of the Week)

“A brilliant and stunning debut, My Dark Vanessa is utterly truth-rattling, humane in its clarity and chilling in its resonance. An absolute must read.” (Gillian Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Gone Girl)

‘Clever, unsettling … this novel stands out for its elusiveness, its exceedingly complex, inventive, resourceful examination of harm and power’ New Yorker

‘The #MeToo novel that’s as gripping as any thriller’ Grazia

‘Gripping and unsettling… a bracingly uncompromising book. It will doubtless be devoured with an ache of recognition by large numbers of women. But it really ought to be read by men’ Economist

Superb … a book that asks what we have lost and gained in an era that has revolutionised the way we think about sex and power’ Observer

Addictively disturbing’ Red Magazine

 

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen @panmacmillan @netgalley @greerkh @sarahpekkanen @StMartinsPress #blog #review #thriller

Absolutely amaaaaaazing! I had this on my anticipated reads for this year and loved it.
So cleverly and powerfully written and gallops along at break-neck speed.  A fiendishly clever thriller with masterful twists that will keep you guessing.

Book Description:

You Are Not Alone: A Novel by [Hendricks, Greer, Pekkanen, Sarah]

US Link

The electrifying #1 New York Times bestselling authors of THE WIFE BETWEEN US and AN ANONYMOUS GIRL return with a brand new novel of psychological suspense.

Shay Miller wants to find love, but it eludes her. She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end. She wants to belong, but her life is increasingly lonely.

Until Shay meets the Moore sisters. Cassandra and Jane live a life of glamorous perfection, and always get what they desire. When they invite Shay into their circle, everything seems to get better.

Shay would die for them to like her.
She may have to.

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (March 3, 2020)
  • ISBN-10: 1250202035
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250202031

What people are saying:

One of Newsweek‘s Most Anticipated Books of 2020
One of SheReads Most Anticipated Books of 2020
One of PopSugar’s Most Anticipated Books of 2020
One of HelloGiggles’ Most Anticipated Books of 2020
One of Marie Claire’s Best Fiction by Women in 2020
One of Woman’s Day’s Best Fiction Books Coming Out in 2020

Review

You Are Not Alone: The Most Gripping Thriller of the Year from the Bestselling Authors of the Richard and Judy Smash Hit The Wife Between Us by [Hendricks, Greer, Pekkanen, Sarah]

UK Link

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are two of my favorite authors so I knew I was in for a treat. They’ve mastered the art of building suspense and dishing out inner secrets one grain at a time. It’s more-ish. You have to get back to it after a day at work and it rattles around in your mind while you’re driving home. A book that leaves it’s glorious residue long after you’ve finished it.

Hooked from the start You Are Not Alone follows the story of Shay who works a low-paid temporary job and lives with the love of her life. A devoted statistician, she’s extremely relatable — a young woman who feels isolated and vulnerable, perhaps someone whose helplessness comes into question. But when she witnesses a shocking accident, her focus on the victim could be seen as obsessive.

Shay meets the Moore sisters — Cassandra and Jane — two stylish and alluring women who appear to have everything, demonstrating the lifestyle Shay would love. There is definitely an unsettling mood right from the start which made me want to read on. The book digs deep into the multi-layers of each character and their secrets, an enigma if ever there was one!

Shay’s obsession to find out more about Amanda may come at a cost, and the Moore sisters seem to be all too controlling. I did wonder why she didn’t have an ‘Aha’ moment a little sooner, and regroup to weigh up her options. But what is obvious to the reader, is not obvious to Shay. She’s complex and insecure and desperate for friends, and let’s face it, she’s been abandoned, so why not? I think this more than adequately covers for any inconsistencies in character. For instance, why didn’t she get suspicious about her make-over? Then I reminded myself that her naivety was born out of loneliness and a hungry need to fit in.

There are quite a lot of characters and for me, this became a little confusing. I wondered if they scrambled the plot a little and whether they were entirely necessary. This book is about greed, paranoia and revenge, and while the roller-coaster journey was dark and tense, the ending is nicely wrapped up. A clever twist I didn’t see coming.

At no time did I get that jarring feeling that the book was written by two authors. The narrative is joined seamlessly and effortlessly to give an outstanding reading experience. A medium to fast burn for me, which is what kept me coming back.

Thank you to netgalley and Pan Macmillan for the privilege of reading this book.

About the Authors:

Greer HendricksGREER HENDRICKS is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller The Wife Between Us. Prior to becoming a novelist, she spent over two decades as an editor at Simon & Schuster. She obtained her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Allure, and Publisher’s Weekly. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children.

 

Sarah Pekkanen is the internationally-bestselling author of THE WIFE BETWEEN US and the upcoming AN ANONYMOUS GIRL, cowritten with Greer Hendricks.

Sarah PekkanenTHE WIFE BETWEEN US – an instant New York Times bestseller – is a twisty psychological tale that has been optioned for film by Amblin Entertainment. Sarah and Greer are penning the screenplay for Amblin.

AN ANONMYOUS GIRL is currently in production as a television series by eOne,with Sarah and Greer serving as executive producers.

Sarah is also the author of eight solo novels.

Please find Sarah on Facebook, Instagram and twitter @sarahpekkanen

Other Books by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Greer Hendricks

Our House by Louise Candlish – published by @BerkleyPub @penguinrandom #review #blog #women’s #psychological #thriller

This book was such a treat! I bought the hardback format for my book shelf and I’m very happy I did. Nail-biting from the very beginning, this writer knows how to turn everyday situations into truly disturbing nightmares. A five star read for me!

Book Description

Our House by [Candlish, Louise]“The perfect book for thriller readers and true-crime podcast addicts…a stunning literary thriller that artfully twists and turns until the very end.”–Bustle

One of The Washington Post‘s 10 Best Thrillers and Mysteries of the Year
One of Publishers Weekly‘s Best Books of the Year
One of Real Simple‘s Best Books of the Year

On a bright morning in the suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought on Trinity Avenue. Nothing strange about that. Except it’s your house. And you didn’t sell it.

When Fiona Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband, Bram, have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years; how can another family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeared–along with their two young children–when she needs him most?

As the nightmare takes hold, Fiona begins to untangle the lies that led to a devastating crime–and a betrayal so shocking it will teach her to keep her own secrets behind locked doors….

Print Length: 426 pages

Page Numbers Source ISBN: 045148911X

Publisher: Berkley (August 7, 2018)

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Language: English

ASIN: B075HZ82S6

Buyers links: US flag US here    British flag UK  here

Review

A well-executed plot that had me gasping from the outset. I noticed a few reviews that indicated this was a slow burn, but for me it was completely the opposite. Each chapter and sections of dialogue drove the story forward at an alarming rate. and I couldn’t put the book down.

Although the premise may seem a little far-fetched, as I read on it became terrifyingly believable. On Friday 13th, Fi returns home to discover something has happened to her house. The front façade is the same, but the occupants and furniture aren’t. Fi’s husband’s phone is out of service and her children aren’t at school that day. Two inconsistencies sure to send any mother into a tail spin. This is one of those stories that spring from an ordinary day at work, a simple ride home and BAM! The stuff great psychological thrillers are made of.

Written mainly in two points of view, Fi’s and Bram’s with his Word document that parallels Fi’s podcast — stories that lead up to the present day. With infidelity and divorce in the background, and latterly a ‘bird’s nest’ plan — keeping the children in the same home with alternating parental custody — things should have been working well. But they’re not when you consider the secret Bram is hiding. With Fi being the innocent party up until now, you watch two otherwise intelligent, responsible people slide slowly into a complete nightmare. A car crash, a few more affairs and a conspiracy that made my toes curl.

Fi’s neighbour, Merle, offers to help her throughout her ordeal, although I had a hard time understanding how Fi managed to deal with it. But desperate and out of sorts, what choice did she have? I found her thoughtful and compassionate, everything you’d expect. Bram is a little too treacherous for his own good, and perhaps a little weak. I kept wanting to shake him out of his stubbornness as he kept trying to cover up his mistakes, which deteriorated with each chapter. There was no way out for him and digging deeper into his dark world only cemented his failure. Secrets, both harrowing and tragic, a moral message and a few well planned twists along the way made the book a success for me. The last chapter was something I’d toyed with but thought wouldn’t happen. I think the author did a splendid job of tying up all loose ends, even if one question may have been left hanging. For me, this enhances the read because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love being confronted by a potentially shocking revelation.

This is the first Louise Candlish book I’ve read and definitely won’t be the last. Masterfully plotted, her writing is top-notch and sure to score with avid domestic thriller lovers. If you’re looking for a superior read, one with grit and depth, this is it. Our House will definitely be listed in my top ten reads for 2019.

What people are saying:

Our House: The Sunday Times bestseller everyone's talking about by [Candlish, Louise]‘If 2018 brings a better book than Our House I will eat my hat. Addictive, twisty and oh so terrifyingly possible’ CLARE MACKINTOSH

‘I raced through it this weekend. Such a smart idea. Twisty, warped, credible. Brilliantly plotted and compelling. Deserves to be such a hit’ SARAH VAUGHAN

‘Louise Candlish is a great writer; she inhaled me into her nightmarish world where everything we think we know is ripped from under our feet’  FIONA BARTON

”A masterfully plotted, compulsive page-turner’ Guardian 
‘Keeps you guessing to the end – and beyond’ Stylist
‘Whip-smart, knowing and brilliantly plotted’ INDIA KNIGHT
‘A corker’ Evening Standard
‘Terrific premise’ New York Times

Other books by Louise Candlish

Louise Candlish