Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar (2/5)

First published: 1982
Page count: 263

The back says: 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.

I say: I cannot recall who recommended this to me – which is a shame because I’d like to punch tell them their sense of humour is not the same as mine. This was not funny at all. Actually, it was rather tragic. I felt so sorry for Rachel that it was painful being inside her deluded and crazy head. It was also a very implausible transformation. Perhaps this could serve as a study in insanity of the sort that’s always lurking beneath the surface and is only waiting for that one chance to spring into being.

Rachel’s chance being the house she inherits.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I read this and all that I am left with is Rachel thinking that people are flirting with her, and pretending to be some grand old dame. Everything in her life thus far has been a failure and as she reminisces it becomes clear that her mother had a hand to play in it – it’s always the mother, isn’t it – but also that her memories aren’t very reliable since she sees herself in a completely different, and beautifying, light.

She also finds out that a writer used to live in her house, finds his work and later a painting of him in a local shop; both of which she buys and becomes obsessed with. She hangs the painting in her house and then pretends that he is her lover.

She even buys a wedding dress...

I suppose that this could all be considered humorous, but like I said, to me it was just tragic. Unfortunately I found the writing to be rather dry and affected, especially when Rachel was remembering her childhood, which didn’t help much. Her entire back story was somewhat predictable and unimaginative whereas her present was too imaginative; her madness didn’t seem genuine.

And her last conversation with her gardener was too over the top, it spoiled what little I thought of the novel up to that point.

So yeah, 2/5 due to all of the above.


  1. I doubt anyone in reality could keep that sort of change up unless they were truly mad. She must have been crazy in her old life but just hid it well. Maybe now that she had money she had the leisure to become one of those crazy rich people. Or she was going for eccentric and taking it too far.

    As soon as you mentioned the painting and the wedding dressed I was convinced that this would irritate me. Thank you for the warning ;)

    1. Hahaha, I still feel guilty about slating books, but I can't be anything but honest. And that painting and wedding dress *should* annoy everyone.