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Wish Her Safe at Home, by Stephen Benatar

with 14 comments

Rachel Waring, star of Wish Her Safe at Home, is a middle-aged woman with a fairly innocuous existence who inherits an old mansion from a great aunt in a city not her own. As soon as she sees it, she falls in love: with life, with art, with romance itself, and even with the imagined presence, of sorts, of a man who lived in the house years before her own birth. For the first time, she is incredibly happy. She buys herself nice clothes, splurges on gourmet foods, and gives her full attention to beauty in all of its forms.

Rachel’s enthusiasm and joy was contagious to this reader, who wanted nothing but for those feelings to grow and to remain hers forever. But, as Rachel’s spirits soar on, it becomes uncomfortably clear that something isn’t quite right. It becomes clear in the way that other characters interact with her, in the way that their motivations become increasingly suspect, and in the growing unpredictibility of her actions. Soon, we know, something terrible must either happen or come to light…and there is nothing for the reader to do but sweat, bite the inside of one’s cheeks, and brace for the inevitable crash that will end Rachel’s delusions, hoping she’ll survive the impact.

I was amazed by Benatar’s ability to create a character who is so easy to inhabit, and yet is so vulnerable to the scrutiny of outsiders’ rationality. This story has been compared with the real-life tale of the Beales of Grey Gardens, and the comparison is warranted. However, it also stands alone on the merit of Benatar’s writing and Rachel Waring herself, a character who is just as real as the Beales.

Discomforting to read, in the best of ways.

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Written by Emily Jane

May 6, 2011 at 12:59 am

14 Responses

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  1. My first thought: is it a “The Others” type of story?

    Alex

    May 6, 2011 at 7:59 am

    • No. It is a bit creepy, but there’s no sort of “reverse twist” or whatever you want to call it.

      Emily Jane

      May 7, 2011 at 2:19 am

  2. I keep hearing such great things about this book. One of these days I must pick it up šŸ™‚

    amymckie

    May 6, 2011 at 10:45 am

  3. oh I wanted to read thisa ,there was a piece in sunday times last year about it he self published some books ,after intial sucess ,this does sound great and love the nyrb cover as ever they do great covers ,all the best stu

    winstonsdad

    May 6, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    • I love their covers too! They make the books intensely more appealing to me (shallowness: I admit it), and I have yet to be disappointed in anything they’ve put out…although I have only read a few. Hope you like it if you try it, Stu!

      Emily Jane

      May 7, 2011 at 2:21 am

  4. This book sounds really amazing, I will put it on my TBR. And I agree with you, the cover is so pretty.

    Willa

    May 7, 2011 at 9:59 pm

  5. That sounds so great! An old mansion, a twist, does it by any chance include an unreliable narrator?

    Bina

    May 9, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    • Yes! There’s not really a twist, but unreliable narrator definitely!

      Emily Jane

      May 10, 2011 at 12:07 am

      • Unreliable narrators are my favorite kind! šŸ˜€

        Bina

        May 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm

  6. Ah, Rachel Waring’s one of my most favorite heroines. Strange duck, her, but so loveable to me. As the book progressed–and, as you said, gave the impression that something just wasn’t quite right–I kept chanting, “Please have a happy ending, please, please, please.” šŸ™‚ So glad you liked it! Also, I probably shouldn’t add that I foresee a Rachel Waring kind of future for me if I’m not careful, haha.

    Sasha

    May 14, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    • I liked her a lot too, and kept chanting the same thing. Ah, Rachel! Haha, I think part of what’s so engaging about this book is that there’s a little bit of Rachel in most of us šŸ™‚

      Emily Jane

      May 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm

  7. […] Wish Her Safe at Home, by Stephen Benatar […]


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