Wednesday 1 August 2018

Putney by Sofka Zinovieff @sofkazinovieff @BloomsburyBooks #Putney

It is the 1970s and Ralph, an up-and-coming composer, is visiting Edmund Greenslay at his riverside home in Putney to discuss a collaboration. Through the house's colourful rooms and unruly garden flits nine-year-old Daphne - dark, teasing, slippery as mercury, more sprite than boy or girl. From the moment their worlds collide, Ralph is consumed by an obsession to make Daphne his.
But Ralph is twenty-five and Daphne is only a child, and even in the bohemian abandon of 1970s London their fast-burgeoning relationship must be kept a secret. It is not until years later that Daphne is forced to confront
the truth of her own childhood - and an act of violence that has lain hidden for decades.
Putney is a bold, thought-provoking novel about the moral lines we tread, the stories we tell ourselves and the memories that play themselves out again and again, like snatches of song.

Putney by Sofka Zinovieff was published on 12 July 2018 by Bloomsbury. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Putney is a novel that evoked so many emotions in me. It's about the sexual abuse of a child and there's no getting away from the fact that this is one of the most dark and harrowing subjects that fiction can cover. However, it is also a deeply though-provoking, and beautifully written story that raises questions. Not just questions about the issue of sex abuse, but questions of the reader, for this author has portrayed her characters in such an enlightening and intelligent manner that the readers own inbuilt morals could be questioned.

Ralph is twenty-five years old when he meets nine-year old Daphne. It's the 1970s London and he's an upcoming composer, mixing with the bohemian and somewhat seedy art world. Daphne is the almost feral daughter of Ed; a successful author and his Greek wife Ellie. Ed and Ellie take a what could be seen as modern view of their parenting responsibilities, but scratch the surface, and it's clear that they are actually guilty of neglect. Daphne is a free spirit; childishly flirtatious and wilful and Ralph is enchanted.

Told in three voices; Ralph, Daphne and Daphne's childhood friend Jane, the story begins as seventy-year old Ralph is undergoing chemotherapy, and reflecting on his life. To him, Daphne was his one big love. Not once does he consider that to embark upon a relationship with a child, which was consummated when she was just thirteen, was wrong. He looks back with an idealistic view, he remembers love and secrets and pleasure.

Daphne herself, as a fifty-year old also seems to have accepted that early relationship as just something that happened. She remembers Ralph with love and affection and is including his image in a piece of fabric artwork that she has entitled Putney. It is not until her friend Jane contacts her, after a long estrangement, that she begins to realise that Ralph was not, in fact, a lover, he was a predator, a groomer and he didn't love her, he raped her.

Putney is not sensationalist. It is not filled with gratuitous sexual scenes. It is a immaculately written story of how times have changed. The author deals with historic child sex abuse in such a brilliant way, she allows the reader to try to understand Ralph's reasoning, but never excuses him. Both Daphne and Ralph are exquisitely crafted. Ralph, the self-important, persuasive charmer is gloriously dreadful whilst young Daphne is joyous and innocent with a guile that gives her an adult air. Whilst Daphne's life has not been easy, and her fifty-year old character is harder and more worn than her child voice, she is still vulnerable and still believes that Ralph loved her.

I could probably go on for hours about the impact this book has had on me. It is thrilling, disturbing and quite remarkable. Perfectly placed for the #MeToo era and emotionally draining, Putney is a book that is incredibly important. This author is extremely talented and Putney will remain with me for a very long time. I highly recommend this book; shocking and complex and haunting.

Sofka Zinovieff was born in London, has Russian ancestry and divides her time between Greece and England. 
She is the acclaimed author of three works of non-fiction: "Eurydice Street",
"Red Princess", and "The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me", a New York Times
Editors’ Choice 2015. She has written two novels, "The House on Paradise Street" and her latest book, "Putney" - an explosive and thought-provoking novel about the far-reaching repercussions of an illicit relationship between a young girl and a much older man. 
"Putney" is published in the UK in July 2018, in the US in August 2018, and later in Canada.

For more information visit
Follow her on Twitter @sofkazinovieff

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