Today it is day sixteen in my series showcasing my top reads of 2018, following the innovative idea of #bookvent from Jen Lucas of Jen Med’s Book Reviews.
My choice for today’s top read is not a comfortable one. It is a beautifully constructed, wholly engrossing, thought provoking, wholly uncomfortable read.
This book is a novel about child exploitation, specifically child abuse. I was less than sure I would be able to read this book, far less wax lyrical about the writing, but it is so beautifully drawn and so carefully laid out that I found myself completely drawn in by it and having to examine my own judgemental feelings as I went along.
Today’s book choice is, however, so carefully written and the subject so well treated that it really does deserve its place in my top reads of this yeat.
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.
I’d say this is a story of historical sex abuse, except that for Daphne, now approaching 50, this is her life and has been since she was 9 years old.
For Daphne this is love, belonging and adoration. For Ralph it is pure, unalloyed romanticism and he revels in her naivety and her enthusiasm for him.
Told both in both the present day and in memory flashbacks to the 70’s Putney has three voices, that of Daphne, Ralph and Daphne’s friend, Jane Fish. This is a carefully told story in which we learn about their relationship and its ultimate consummation in Greece when Daphne is 13 years old.
All too relevant for the ‘me too’ generation, this is a book that ultimately pulls no punches, but leaves you questioning the chiaroscuro between action and motive.
You can read my review here