Rachel Waring is deliriously happy. Out of nowhere, a great-aunt leaves her a Georgian mansion in another city—and she sheds her old life without delay. Gone is her dull administrative job, her mousy wardrobe, her downer of a roommate. She will live as a woman of leisure, devoted to beauty, creativity, expression, and love. Once installed in her new quarters, Rachel plants a garden, takes up writing, and impresses everyone she meets with her extraordinary optimism. But as Rachel sings and jokes the days away, her new neighbors begin to wonder if she might be taking her transformation just a bit too far.
In Wish Her Safe at Home, Stephen Benatar finds humor and horror in the shifting region between elation and mania. His heroine could be the next-door neighbor of the Beales of Grey Gardens or a sister to Jane Gardam’s oddball protagonists, but she has an ebullient charm all her own.
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
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.
Benatar brilliantly imagines himself into a tragically compassionate mind for which wild fancy is the only, and proper, antidote to despair.
This is a most original and surprising novel, and one difficult to forget: it stays in the mind.
I truly loved this book… such a marvellous work…