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. (From Goodreads)
Thank you Harper Books for gifting me a copy of this book, and for inviting me on the Blog Tour. All opinions are my own.
I rate this book a 4.5 out of 5 Stars.
This was a beautifully written book, that packed an emotional punch. I want to say there are going to be many triggers for readers especially those of the #MeToo movement. There are certain topics that I cannot stomach in books, unless they are done with tact, and leave a lot up to your own imagination. Thankfully this is that kind of book. What was fascinating to me, is how realistic this was, from the grooming, to the preying, to the way Ralph weasels himself into the family in a way that no one questioned him. Wouldn’t a family wonder why he took such a liking to their child? Imagine being Daphne’s friend Jane, and being a witness to this, but being to scared to say anything.
I liked the way this book was written, in three perspectives, Ralph, Daphne, and Jane, and it’s written during past and present. So you get a lot of the back story, while catching up with the three of them as adults. This book is going to be hard to stomach for some readers, I mean, a 28-year-old man was introduced to a 9-year-old girl, and when you read his thoughts, it will make you very uneasy. (A quote below from when Ralph first met Daphne, while it’s very eloquent, she was 9)
“A slow-motion hunt so gradual that the prey didn’t even realize it was being pursued, and would eventually just lie down to be mauled.”
There is something beautiful about Zinovieff’s writing style, while this book was a slow build for me, it had me completely entranced. I had to know the outcome, I was reading every spare second I had just to see how this story that developed over multiple decades panned out. I am so grateful that I was able to read this book, and to be a part of this Blog Tour. This is going to be one of the top books to be read this year, and I am glad I got to be around from the start. Also, I am very curious to see what fans of “All The Ugly And Wonderful Things” are going to think of this book. While it’s very similar in nature, I did support the relationship between the two characters in that book, I however did not support the relationship between Ralph and Daphne.
“Our story had nothing to do with abuse. To link them is like pouring filth on flowers, like denying the power of love.”