Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Review of Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar

Wish Her Safe at Home
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.


Zibilee said...

I just bought a copy of this after reading a fabulous review of it. I am so looking forward to this book and am glad that you loved it as well. I will have to come back and let you know what I thought of it when I am finished.

Gwen Dawson said...

Z--would love to hear your thoughts on this one. It's so unique.

Aarti said...

I LOVED this book! It was my favorite read of 20009. Just amazed by Benatar's writing style. Glad you enjoyed it, too- I agree that NYRB should be thanked for bringing the book back :-)

Irene said...

I noticed this book, checked out reviews (including yours), and now am totally convinced that I must read it!!

Great review.