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Wish Her Safe at Home (New York Review Books (Paperback)) Paperback – January 19, 2010
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"The inheritance of a mansion in Bristol sparks Stephen Benatar’s rediscovered classic Wish Her Safe at Home, in which a cheerfully unbalanced young striver finds her energetic efforts to embrace the finer things in life (and seduce the vicar) thwarted." --Vogue
"This is a most original and surprising novel, and one difficult to forget: it stays in the mind.” –Dorris Lessing
“I truly loved this book…such a marvelous work…” –Emma Thompson
“A masterpiece…matchlessly clever…wholly original.” --John Carey
“The story is simple, the implications are complex. Rachel is one of the great English female characters. . . . She is Scarlett O’Hara, Blanche DuBois, Snow White and Miss Havisham all rolled into one.” —S.J. Newman, The Times Literary Supplement
“A truly remarkable novel, unique and of a world all its own, the best work I’ve read for a long time. . . . I took it slowly, so many pages a day. I’m never one to spoil enjoyment when into something so extraordinary.” —Alan Sillitoe
“Benatar brilliantly imagines himself into a tragically compassionate mind for which wild fancy is the only, and proper, antidote to despair.” —The Guardian
“A neglected masterpiece…Brilliant…” –Joan Bakewell, The Times (London)
“This horrifying exploration of madness at least deserves to be called a cult classic.” –The Independent
“A remarkably odd and chilling story.” –The Observer (London)
“There is something about Rachel Waring—something which is instantly apparent when you read the book—that makes the reader care deeply for her…Wish her Safe at Home is spooky, odd and brilliant.” –Camden New Journal
“The atmosphere of encroaching cobwebs, decreasing funds and withering reality is well done…a nice grey sense of eccentricity shading into madness.” –The Guardian (London)
“Rachel’s impact on the world is only glimpsed in snatches, but they’re enough to suggest that her self-view is woefully at odds with society at large. It’s a brilliantly clever technique, with an impact particularly unsettling for those who choose to live alone.” –The Observer (London)
"This is one of those satisfying stories that is told in the first person by one who does not understand the import of what she’s revealing–very much like Molly Keane’s 'Good Behavior,' in fact. Rachel goes entirely mad, but in a way that perfectly reveals a grim world of predatory intent and callousness all around her. It is a black comedy, exuberantly grotesque, but sad and poignant as well." –Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe
About the Author
Stephen Benatar was born in London in 1937. He has taught English at the University of Bordeaux, lived in Southern California, been a schoolteacher, an umbrella salesman, a hotel porter, and an employee of the Forestry Commission. He began writing as a child, but did not publish his first book, The Man on the Bridge, until he was forty-four. Subsequent works include Wish Her Safe at Home, When I Was Otherwise, Recovery, Letters for a Spy, and Two on a Tiger and Stars, a book for young readers. Benatar has four grown children and currently lives in West Hampstead, London, with his partner, John.
John Carey is Arts Emeritus Merton Professor of English at Oxford University. He has appeared as a host and commentator on numerous television and radio programs in England and is the former chief book reviewer for The Sunday Times. Among his books are The Intellectuals and the Masses, What Good Are the Arts?, Pure Pleasure: A Guide to the Twenieth Century’s Most Enjoyable Books, and a biography of William Golding. He has chaired the Booker Prize committee twice and in 2005 was the chair of the first international Booker Prize committee.
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Top customer reviews
I have no idea what rating it deserves. The writing was excellent, but the story was a real DOOZY .
I can't really give any more of it away ,because it'd ruin the book .
Let's just say it's kinda like being blindfolded ,sat in a race car driving backwards ,and each time around the track you go faster .
If you are in a reading SLOG and need something to grab your attention , get your blindfold and get ready for a ride .
My only quibble with the book is that the writing isn't great. Because the novel is meant to be disjointed thoughts from a crazy person, this also means sentences are short and choppy. Subjects are started and then dropped. Descriptions often are lacking. I found myself wanting a broader understanding of Rachel's outside surroundings.
Overall, this is a good read. I highly recommend it for those seeking a better understanding of how a crazy person thinks.
Rachel is a 47 year old, introverted, unmarried (neurotic) woman (mostly due to lack of experience of almost everything). She roomates with insipid, sarcastic Sylivia, who cusses a blue storm; then, out of nowhere, she inherits her spinster aunt's 18th century house outside London. Rachel renovates the estate and moves in and becomes more and more... well....cray-cray. She exhibits a mania in almost everything she does and says from now on.
The most fun part about Rachel is her delusions and misunderstandings of reading other people, mostly men. She thinks the men she meets all want her and make subtle hints to that effect. When she discovers, e.g., they are married, or, like the Vicar, not interested in her "in that way," she rebels and despises them, determined not to go back to the chemist's or the church. She talks to herself about this, and you hope she isn't saying anything out loud although her inappropriate grunts, sighs, and laughs are. This trait would be pathetic and sad, but the author has written a masterpiece of developing a character so you really are rooting for her, even though you know she isn't going to eventually "have a clue." Also you know she's off her perch from the way people respond or try to avoid her after her 'digressions.'
It's compellling reading because the author ( Stephen Benatar) gets inside Rachel's distorted mind in a way that only an insightful psychologist (or psychic) can. Rachel means well, but she's so messed up it's doubtful even years of therapy will help this poor old girl.
She sings to herself verses from romantic songs of old facvorites like "Fairy Tales Can Come True, It can happen to you -- if you're young at heart."
Eventually a young couple with a baby befriend Rachel, realize she's a nutjob, and move into her three story house with basement and a large oustside, rent free. All in all, an excellent read.
I haven't read a story this original or compelling in a long time.
Comparable,perhaps, to Patrick White's "Aunts Story", this is altogether more humourous, dark and unnerving. Set in the year it was written (1981-2)and narrated by Rachel,initially I thought "When on earth was England last like this ? 1950 ?" Then it quickly dawns on you that this is exactly the era Rachel is stuck in; where her youth passed her by;where he fleeting hopes of romance and life died.An era she cant move on from.
Cut away from her cynical flatmate,Sylvia-whose mockery of Rachel's pretentions and fantasies kept her in reality-Rachel quickly spirals into madness. (All the scenes with Sylvia are wonderful comic moments ) There is so much to read into this book. As outsiders reading Rachel's narrative, you begin to wonder ifsudden 'friends' Roger and Celia are in a pact with Mark-Rachels solicitor-to take advantage of this obviously vulnerable woman. And you feel as awkward and embarrassed as the recipients of Rachel's ill conceived advice and take on life of which Rachel is completely unaware.
Stephen Benatar for many years after 'Wish Her Safe at Home's' initial minor success,self published and promoted this book,by chance giving a copy to a publisher from the NYRB-hence this publication. Despite its Booker nomination in 1982,Benatar has been under the radar;hopefully this will lead to a bigger audience for this book. It is a classic,drawing on many timeless themes that make this unique. A real must read book .