Ebb & flow

Round & About

Sofka Zinovieff

Author Sofka Zinovieff explains more about her new novel inspired by the patch of south-west London where she grew up and which is being hailed as a summer must-read…

I spent much of my childhood living by the river in Putney. We lived so close to the bridge that the house trembled every time a Tube train went over, and passing “pleasure boats” blaring dance music were a feature of summer evenings.

My father had an electronic music studio that started in a shed in the garden, and later graduated to the basement. Vast banks of computers and synthesisers let out mad squawks and bleeps and I would regularly return from school (Putney High School) to find rock groups like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, as well as experimental musicians from around the world.

When I decided to write a novel set in the 1970s, it was too tempting not to use elements from my own environment as the setting. Although the story is not my own, the physical setting is largely based on the place I lived and the heady atmosphere of barefooted, flower-powered, wild-child indulgence is inspired from the world I knew.

Daphne is only 13 when she falls in love with Ralph, an upcoming composer, 20 years her senior. Ralph is married, but he has long been obsessed with Daphne – “dark, teasing, slippery as mercury, more sprite than boy or girl”. He is also close to her alluring bohemian parents, Ellie (a Greek political activist) and Edmund (a successful writer). In the hot summer of 1976, Daphne and Ralph travel to Greece together and manage to “disappear” for a few days to an island. Only one person knows of their passionate trysts: Daphne’s best friend Jane, whose awe of the intoxicating Greenslay ensures her silence.

Daphne looks back to her first love as a romantic secret. After a rackety life with a brief, disastrous marriage to a Greek billionaire and years of drug abuse, she is finally back on track. She and her 12-year-old daughter now live on the other side of the Thames, with a view across to her old home. When Daphne re-connects with Jane, she is forced to reconsider her relationship with Ralph. Growing anxiety over her own adolescent daughter leads her to confront him, the truth of her own childhood, and an act of violence that has lain hidden for decades…