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Wish Her Safe at Home (1982)

by Stephen Benatar

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4202661,246 (3.7)46
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.… (more)
  1. 00
    The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (agmlll)
  2. 00
    A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Another narrator who intends to begin life anew in a new house and who unwittingly reveals her subsequent psychological deterioration. Benatar's book is more striking but Ashworth's is huge fun.
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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
In this beautifully-crafted story, Benatar brings to life a character, Rachel, who feels the world and the creatures in it too strongly. She lived with a controlling, powerful mother so long that it warped her sensibility. From the introduction by John Carey, "among the griefs over other's suffering lodged deep in her memory is the death of the gentle young man in Paradise Street who had a club foot and kept the rabbit in the backyard, and was knocked down and killed when she was 10." These feelings...[are] "an index not of social maladjustment but of pathological hypersensitivity...Because she is so defenseless against the world's cruelty, she can only withdraw." Rachel, like us "disturbs, to put it bluntly, because Rachel, the mad narrator, is very like us. Admittedly, she takes things to extremes. Traits that we all recognize in ourselves are, in her case, blown up into intense inner (and sometimes public) dramas."

Rachel is mocked, used, and misunderstood by those around her. We wish her the best, and as her story advances, "We fear for her. Our hackles rise when others approach her. We harbor black suspicions about anyone who seems out to deceive her. Benatar encourages this paranoia in us by not letting us know about other people's motives" ... and we only"wish her 'safe at home.'" ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
This is a first person account from a woman that is truly off her rocker. I don't know what her diagnosis would be today but Rachel Waring most definitely has a progressing mental illness throughout this story. To read this after Isabella Robinson's story (from Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace -- non-fiction) just made me feel the unjustness of that true tale even more as she never once showed real signs of madness. I didn't love this book but was glad to have read it as it was different from my usual reads.

http://webereading.com/2016/02/mental-health-and-victorian-or-modern.html ( )
  klpm | Feb 27, 2016 |
Certainly a book not for the weak. This is a brilliant story that does involve insanity. Delusions run wild, just as the narrator voices exactly what we were thinking as well. But slip and slide we shall, and down to great depths of disrepair. Charming and evocative, this is a novel unfortunately rarely read. ( )
  MSarki | Jan 23, 2016 |
Picked this up at random on a library bookshelf and want to give myself a pat on the back for doing so. Benatar subtly handles the ever-increasing delusions of Rachel Waring in such as way that the reader can identify with and wish to defend and protect her. The only sense of place that is sharp and clear for the reader stems from Rachel's interior world. The "real" world is indistinct--so much so that I had to keep reminding myself that it was set in the 1980s and not decades earlier. I also had to give up trying to construct a solid visual of Rachel since her physical descriptions came solely from her own perception and those that are (possibly) trying to manipulate her.


( )
1 vote helynrob | Aug 13, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Benatarprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carey, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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As before, this book is lovingly dedicated to my family--with, now, a pecial thank you to Prue, for suggesting minor but useful alterations for the present edition. (Also, a thank you to your cohorts, Katie and Pascale).  

It is dedicated, too, to Charlotte Barrow.  I'll always be grateful that--back in 1982--you rescued my manuscript from the slush pile.  

And, lastly, to my partner John.  Thanks, doll. 
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My great-aunt in middle age became practically a recluse and when she died I remembered very little of her, because the last time I'd visited that stuffy basement flat in St. John's Wood had been thirty-seven years earlier, in 1944, when I was only ten. 
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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.

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