4 out of 5: This wonderfully original novel examines the happy side of madness. Rachel Waring, a middle-aged spinster living in London with a cantankerous flat-mate and a dead-end job, unexpectedly inherits from a forgotten aunt a beautiful but dilapidated Georgian mansion in Bristol. As a result of her unforeseen good fortune, Rachel decides to remake her life. She quits her job and moves to Bristol where she lovingly refurbishes the house and, in the process, becomes obsessed with a former occupant from the 18th century.
This book’s genius is its close first-person point of view. The reader witnesses everything from Rachel’s increasingly unbalanced perspective. Determined to always look at the bright side, Rachel slowly descends into a gleeful kind of madness, but we’re never quite certain whether Rachel is truly insane or merely optimistic. By turns, we’re charmed by her and embarrassed for her. We laugh at her numerous follies and cringe at her missteps, all the while wishing her the very best. Wish Her Safe at Home is a remarkable achievement in characterization and a refreshing examination of the brighter aspects of madness. Thanks to NYRB Classics for reviving this novel, which was first published in 1982.