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Wish Her Safe At Home
Wish Her Safe At Home by Stephen Benatar
by Stephen Benatar

Brilliant use of narrative voice
When Rachel Waring inherits a house in Bristol from her great-aunt.  Suddenly she has the opportunity to transform her life from quitting her dull job to freedom from the roommate she dislikes.  Now she can turn her attention to the those things in her heart --- beauty and luxury and even writing.  As she encounters others, her reactions appear increasingly odd.  At times humorous, she says things alost any person could fantasize doing.  At times humorous and others sad, Rachel draws the reader into her world.  The further one enters her mind's perspective, the more troubling seem her reactions.  One wants to keep her safe from all those outside forces that might unmask the word she has created and thus reveal the increasing madness in her perspective. 

In WISH HER SAFE AT HOME, Stephen Benatar creates a disturbing portrait of a woman's descent into madness as seen from within her mind.  As an unreliable narrator, the reader never knows exactly what is real or what is imagined.  Although unreliable, Rachel Waring enlists the reader on her side at the same time as her stories increasingly trouble and disturb.  Although the author clearly situates the novel in place, Rachel Waring is a character one might find any place.  Although set in the early 1980s, Rachel could exist in any time.  One could easily imagine tales of one's older Southern relatives as similar --- at least in the beginning.  At first glance, Rachel Waring could be anyone, but as the author develops Rachel's portrait, the differences disturb, all the more so as one finds oneself rooting for her over those who might disrupt her world.  As her obsessions grow, as her perceptions combine with misunderstandings, Benatar creates both humor and emotional pathos.  WISH HER SAFE AT HOME is a brilliant fusing of form and content.   One cannot easily fit this novel into a pre-defined genre and therein lies its magnificence, particularly now when often publishers often go for the easy sell rather than literary brilliance. 
Despite its short page count, WISH HER SAFE AT HOME is a novel that demands reading attention to see the brilliant use of the author's use of narrative voice.  WISH HER SAFE AT HOME is a novel with fine, subtle well-orchestrated changes as the novel progresses while immersing the reader in Rachel Waring' voice.  WISH HER SAFE AT HOME continues to give more and more upon re-reading(s), making it a keeper for the library bookshelves and a good choice for discussion either in the classroom or in book clubs. 

An 11 page introduction by British literary critic John Carey accompanies this first paperback publication of WISH HER SAFE AT HOME.  Carey defends his choice of this novel for the 1982 Booker Prize against the dissent of other judges.  More importantly, his comments provide a key to the brilliance of Stephen Benatar's novel without giving away too much of the novel.  Whether one reads the introduction before reading the novel or afterwards, or even both, Carey's analysis does not hinder the reading experience or the surprises in store.  The introduction provides enough pointers to stimulate book club discussions.

Publisher: NYRB Classics (January 19, 2010)
Introducton by John Carey

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review Courtesy of Amazon Vine
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