In the 20.9.19 edition of The Bookseller, Alice O’Keeffe writes about the fabulous-sounding debut novel by Kate Elizabeth Russell called My Dark Vanessa which has been the subject of a six-figure pre-empt by Fourth Estate and is due out next year. She starts the article with the words, “Gut wrenching. Riveting. Devastating…” used to describe the book by early readers but words which went on to perfectly describe my feelings as I read the article.
You see, Russell’s story of a sexual relationship between 15 year-old Vanessa and 45 year-old Jacob, who also happens to be her teacher, is similar to my own story of 15 year-old Mia and 35 year-old James, who happens to be her swim coach: both girls are subject to grooming by men in positions of authority; both believe themselves to be in love; Russell’s villain had abused others, mine had a wife much younger than himself whom he also met through coaching; and both have feminist overtones in line with messaging by the #MeToo campaign.
There are differences: Russell’s story explores the fight for justice for victims whereas mine follows victim, Mia’s, search for James when he disappears; Vanessa has grown up and perhaps gained a little perspective, Mia reaches 16 during the course of the story but still believes herself to be in love; Russell’s book is described as ‘literary’ whilst mine is firmly commercial fiction.
That two similar stories can be written at the same time is a sad indictment of our times perhaps but no surprise. That Russell secured six-figures whilst my book did the rounds of agents before I self-published last year is all credit to her.
I wish her and her debut well. I wish her only good things in her future career. I wish…
I wish it were me.
To pre-order Russell’s My Dark Vanessa, due out 23rd January 2020, click here.
To compare and contrast read my own Catch, Pull, Push available now, click here.