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BINSTEAD'S SAFARI by Rachel Ingalls Kirkus Star


by Rachel Ingalls

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-8112-2846-6
Publisher: New Directions

A feminist, fabulist, magical realist romance set in London and Africa, originally published in 1983.

After Mrs. Caliban (1982), an electrifying story of passion between an oppressed suburban housewife and a sexy green sea monster, Ingalls wrote this novel, featuring another underappreciated heroine whose claustrophobic life is about to blow wide open. Millie Binstead has begged to come along with her husband, Stan, minor academic and major creep, on a research trip to London and then Africa. When she offers to pay her own way from New England out of a recent inheritance, he is forced to agree. As soon as they get to London, he dumps her at the hotel and goes off to "work" with a colleague. Finally on her own and out in the world, Millie is not timid and miserable but wholly reborn. Everyone she meets is struck by how insightful, funny, and attractive she is; she is having the time of her life. By the time they get to Africa, Stan is wondering what the hell happened to his mousy, subservient little wife, who will now barely give him the time of day. At this point, the book becomes a deliciously gossipy take on colonial safari culture: the guides, the drivers, the rich tourists, the natives, the boozy, raunchy, sometimes-gory goings-on in town, out in the bush, and up in the sky in hot air balloons. Stan's plan is to investigate the local myths about a Lion God, a man with "supernatural powers in battle and medicine, and love," who can turn himself into the king of beasts when the going gets tough. If such a creature exists, he may be a con artist; Stan is on his trail. As much as it is a love story, this is also a story of revenge, which Stan defines from the perspective of primitive folklore: "the ceremony in which you reproduce the previous act in a slightly altered way or with a reversed outcome, and then it cancels what took place before." Yup, Stan, that's it.

Another witty, elegant story from a writer whose atavistic vision of romantic love is resonant and deeply satisfying. Escaping the overblown egos and endless self-indulgence of the males of their own species, Ingalls' women find their true soul mates elsewhere.