Addressing the themes of grooming and rape, Sofia Zinovieff’s ‘Putney’ and Emma Glass’ ‘Peach’ approach these disturbing subjects in very different ways, but both will resonate with anyone who was a teenager in the 60s and 70s and with parents of teenagers and young adults aware of the #MeToo movement who are navigating their way through their own sexuality. But it’s not for the faint-hearted.
In ‘Putney’, free-spirit pre-teen Daphne, raised in a bohemian household surrounded by hedonistic and often neglectful adults, falls prey to an older man and embarks on a secretive sexual relationship which, at the time, she believes is love.
With its raw imagery, teenage college student in the eponymous ‘Peach’ describes, in dark poetic language, the immediate aftermath of a brutal rape and the associated psychological and physical response of the victim.
Exploring provocative themes which push the boundaries and demand a lot of their readers, these books question the meaning of consent and secrecy, abuse of power and social taboos, moral lines crossed, shame, social awareness and safeguarding. In ‘Putney’, behaviour that was permissible at the time is finally exposed as unacceptable decades later. Sound familiar? ‘Peach’, set in the present day and against the very real backdrop of a decline in reports of rape and prosecutions for sexual abuse, suggests that many rape victims are left to manage the fall-out themselves.
In neither case is the perpetrator brought to justice through the legal system.
Disturbing, but current and relevant, these stories undoubtedly raise many uncomfortable questions, not least: why do victims of sexual crime remain quiet about their experiences? When did not saying ‘no’ ever mean ‘yes’? And how do we navigate our ever-shifting moral, sexual and social landscape?