Author: Sofka Zinovieff
Thank you to Jen Murfee and HarperCollins for asking me to participate in this blog tour. Putney is a very important, timely novel and one that I’m not sure I would have chosen to challenge myself with if it hadn’t been for this opportunity.
First things first: Putney was a hard book to read. There’s no sugar coating this one – the story at its core is one of an adult man preying on the trust and innocence of a young girl, befriending her and earning her trust and affection for years during her childhood and taking advantage of that trust in her adolescence. This book is full of triggers, so if sexual assault, grooming and statutory rape are triggers you aren’t willing to approach then you should turn back now.
However, I urge you not to let the sensitive and uncomfortable content of this book deter you from picking it up. Putney will probably make you cringe and it will likely disgust you at times, but at the core of this book is the story of a woman’s evolution and awakening. Daphne’s story is one that is necessary to understand and I am willing to bet it will change the way you read some headlines from here on out.
Putney is told in the past and present and through a narrative split 3 ways; between Ralph a rising adult composer, Daphne, the daughter of his writing partner who he meets at the age of 9 and immediately views as his muse, and Jane, Daphne’s childhood best friend. Ralph will make your skin crawl, and you might want to shake Daphne at times, but the saving grace in this story and, in my opinion, the thing that makes this story readable is the fact that we get the outside opinion of Jane throughout.
Zinovieff expertly writes all 3 characters in ways that appeal to your emotions and thankfully she chose to focus on each character’s thoughts and motivations much more than gratuitous unnecessary explicit scenes. Our experience of the story from the present looking back, all a little older and wiser and showing not only growth in our characters, but the progression of society make this book modern and essential.
I don’t usually pick a book up and put it down, but I had to take breaks from this one due to its difficult content; as a mother of a young girl especially I found Putney to be emotionally exhausting. Nevertheless, I’m glad I pushed myself to finish this one, because the end of this story was so very rewarding. Putney is unforgettable.
Synopsis via Harper Books:
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 young 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 for many years. When Ralph accompanies Daphne alone to meet her parents in Greece, their relationship intensifies irrevocably. One person knows the truth about their relationship: Daphne’s best friend Jane, whose awe of the intoxicating Greenslay family ensures her silence.
Decades 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 youth 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.
** I received this complimentary copy of Putney to read and review, but all of my thoughts and opinions are my own.