Putney A Novel by Sofka Zinovieff

Putney A Novel by Sofka Zinovieff
Michelle Ford – Narrator
Audiobook - Duration: 11:49:15
Published August 21st, 2018 by HarperAudio

In the spirit of Zoë Heller’s Notes on a Scandal and Tom Perrotta’s Mrs. Fletcher, an explosive and thought-provoking novel about the far-reaching repercussions of an illicit relationship between a young girl and a man twenty years her senior.

A rising star in the London arts scene of the early 1970s, gifted composer Ralph Boyd is approached by renowned novelist Edmund Greenslay to score a stage adaptation of his most famous work. Welcomed into Greenslay’s sprawling bohemian house in Putney, an artistic and prosperous district in southwest London, the musical wunderkind is introduced to Edmund’s beautiful activist wife Ellie, his aloof son Theo, and his nine-year old daughter Daphne, who quickly becomes Ralph’s muse.

Ralph showers Daphne with tokens of his affection—clandestine gifts and secret notes. In a home that is exciting but often lonely, Daphne finds Ralph to be a dazzling companion. Their bond remains strong even after Ralph becomes a husband and father, and though Ralph worships Daphne, he does not touch her. But in the summer of 1976, when Ralph accompanies thirteen-year-old Daphne alone to meet her parents in Greece, their relationship intensifies irrevocably. One person knows of their passionate trysts: Daphne’s best friend Jane, whose awe of the intoxicating Greenslay family ensures her silence.

Forty years later Daphne is back in London. After years lost to decadence and drug abuse, she is struggling to create a normal, stable life for herself and her adolescent daughter. When circumstances bring her back in touch with her long-lost friend, Jane, their reunion inevitably turns to Ralph, now a world-famous musician also living in the city. Daphne’s recollections of her childhood and her growing anxiety over her own young daughter eventually lead to an explosive realization that propels her to confront Ralph and their years spent together.

Masterfully told from three diverse viewpoints—victim, perpetrator, and witness—Putney is a subtle and enormously powerful novel about consent, agency, and what we tell ourselves to justify what we do, and what others do to us.

My thoughts…

I read this novel last month and it has taken me many weeks to arrangement my thoughts about what I read. Putney A Novel by Sofka Zinovieff made me angry, anxious, frustrated and stressed, but I could not stop reading it. I am uncomfortable saying how engaging this was for me. This novel truly is explosive and thought provoking and it is one that you will love it or hate it. Sadly, people will choose to judge Putney without even reading a page due to the disturbing storyline.

This is a novel about of Ralph and Daphne’s emerging ‘relationship’. Ralph is twenty-five and Daphne is nine when they first meet, and as you can imagine from here the story becomes difficult to digest. It is told in flashbacks from three different perspectives: Ralph (the predator), Daphne (the victim), and her best friend Jane, (the witness). The story spans nearly 40 years.

The writing and characters are what makes this book work. Daphne’s experience will bring out every emotion, watching her struggle was heartbreaking to witness. She really believed that her and Ralph were in love and he did nothing wrong. Ralph is a predator, but he doesn't think there was anything wrong with the fact that Daphne was a child. His explanations for his actions were sickening. Jane’s perspective became more interesting later in the book when we read about her unhealthy feelings of jealousy, what she witnessed and her story.

I admire Sofka Zinovieff’s willingness to tell this story. I also appreciated that the author was discerning with the scenes of abuse and did not choose to be graphic. It should be noted there are significant warnings associated with this story, and if you are a reader sensitive to the subjects of sexual grooming/abuse, you may not want to read this.

Overall, I felt every emotion as I read Putney. It is a quite remarkable novel and one I will not forget. The topic may not be one people choose to read about, but it happens far too often, and forever alters the lives of the victims.

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