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.

Rating: BACKLIST

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

17 comments:

Mystica said...

I like the wonderfully unreliable narrator bit!

bermudaonion said...

This sounds like a book I'd enjoy! Thanks for the review.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

It happens to me too... if I don't review a book early enough I lose some of it. Pieces however come when you are thinking of something quite different.

Interesting... I would look out for this.

Shalet Jimmy said...

Sounds like a good read....

TheEccentricLady said...

I like quirky reads. I'll have to add this to the ever growing list!

Zibilee said...

I read this book last year, and loved it. It was hard not to feel for Rachel, and that scene on the bus towards the end had my heart clutching. I am glad that you loved it as well, and you wrote a really compelling review. Now I want to reread!

Anna said...

I don't always like unreliable narratives, but in this instance, it sounds like it works.

pburt said...

Sounds interesting. Have you read The History of History? It also has an unreliable narrator going mad. I found it a difficult read but worth it, I still think about the book, it was that haunting.

Sandra said...

This sounds very interesting to me, I've added it to my tbr list.

bookmagic said...

I read this last year and really liked it. I had no idea where the story was going to go as I was reading it

reviewsbylola said...

Unreliable narrators always intrigue me. This sounds like a good one!

Aarti said...

I LOVED this book when I read it and have been an evangelist for it ever since. So glad you read it and enjoyed it, too :-)

geosireads said...

Definitely, this does count for my books to read as I am a booker fun. It's a shame though that I have not been concentrating much on the longlists.

Marie said...

Geosi, I don't really concentrate on the longlists either but this one came to my attention when it was rereleased and when I noticed it was a Booker nominee, I was sold!

Kathleen said...

Sounds very intriguing with the narrator who may not be all that she seems.

Jeanne said...

I love the way you describe her "prancing about town." Her interest in clothing--and the obvious ridiculousness of the way she looks by the end--makes me think of Blanche Dubois.

Aths said...

This one sounds fantastic! I have been hearing a lot about this one for a while, but have been hesitant to make the jump. I didn't really know that it dealt with "insanity", so now I'm very eager to read it.