Tuesday, June 21, 2011

REVIEW: Wish Her Safe at Home, by Stephen Benatar

Wish Her Safe at Home, by Stephen Benatar. This edition published 2009 by NYRB Classics. Literary fiction.

Originally published in 1982 and rediscovered by the wonderful NYRB Classics publishers recently, Wish Her Safe at Home is one of those strange little novels that makes a big impression.

The story is about Rachel Waring, a young woman with a dead end job, a roommate she doesn't like and a blah life, who inherits, sort of out of the blue, a Georgian mansion in another town. She quits her job, ditches her friend and reinvents herself as an elegant lady of leisure. And all this is fine, except she doesn't have the income or the mental stability to handle it and slowly but surely she descends into genteel madness.

She spends her days prancing about town imagining herself to be the envy of all. She attaches herself to a young couple, Roger and Celia, who have a young son; Rachel invents a whole fantasy family life around this trio and from here it's all downhill until she really can't tell real from imaginary any more.

I have to admit first of all that it's been several months since I read this book and for some reason I didn't take notes on it so I'm doing my best to reconstruct my thoughts, but I enjoyed reading this book a lot.  It's very well-written, and Rachel is a wonderfully unreliable narrator. Benatar writes the book in the first person from her warped point of view so we can read between the lines and see her delusions unfold ever so slowly- although it's clear from the beginning that she doesn't quite see things as they are. Filled with bitter black humor and highly recommended for literary fiction readers, Wish Her Safe at Home is a relatively quick read and an offbeat choice for the beach bag.


FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.