Putney explores the passionate relationship between 9-year-old Daphne, as she acts as muse for Ralph, a man twenty years her senior.
Actually, let me back up and describe the book in a more accurate way. Putney explores the rape of 9-year-old Daphne by the predator Ralph, who brainwashes her into thinking it was an act of love.
It isn’t until Daphne is 50 years old that she realizes the reality of what had happened. She spent her entire childhood and shiftless adulthood thinking Ralph’s actions were love, that the feelings were mutual. Daphne’s realization, of course, does not lead to swift justice and a happy ending.
Putney, while dignified and fancy, still gives me the ick factor I got with All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Contrary to my initial fears, Zinovieff doesn’t do this to condone the child-adult sexual relationship, though. Everything the author does is on purpose. And it’s masterful.
And for Ralph, it’s almost like his obsession with Daphne goes even beyond the sexual aspect. It’s as if he wants to consume her.
Daphne becomes used to being adored, to luxuriating in the glory that is her. She’s like a flower growing in full sun, only to wither when the shadows creep in. When we see her as an adult, having long lost Ralph’s interest, she’s erstwhile, through failed relationships, the inability to hold a job, financially irresponsible. It’s as if the girl never grew up. She doesn’t know how to function as anything other than Ralph’s muse.
Beautifully written and stirring.
Published August 2018
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