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Novel Tells Sad Tale of 'It Girl' in 1970s SoHo

Before it was a haven for designers and fashionistas, New York's SoHo neighborhood was more troubled than trendy.

Run-down and rat-infested, the lower Manhattan neighborhood was home to an assortment of drug users, criminals and seedy shops and clubs. Author Irini Spanidou re-creates this menacing SoHo of the late 1970s in her new novel, Before, the story of a beautiful young woman living with her abusive husband in a SoHo loft.

Twenty-five-year-old Beatrice, who supports her artist husband as an editor's assistant, is surrounded by men who desire her. From a lonely Vietnam veteran to a young heroin addict, Beatrice's companions give her little self-worth even though she's the neighborhood's "It Girl."

Spanidou's haunting novel spans three months in Beatrice's life as she grapples to find some semblance of self-knowledge and control. Spanidou spoke with Scott Simon about SoHo in the late '70s, and the struggles of her troubled protagonist.

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