Rachel Ingalls has been recognized, especially in England, as an important American writer. Her stories and novels, in the fabulist tradition, have gained much critical attention. Born in 1940, Ingalls was reared in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At seventeen, she left high school and spent two years in Germany, spending the second year auditing courses at several German universities. Upon returning to the United States, she enrolled at Radcliffe College and majored in English. In 1964, she settled in England. Her literary career began with the publication of Theft, a collection of stories, in 1970, the title story being a symbolic tale of tyranny and injustice. In 1971, The Man Who Was Left Behind won the First Novel Award given by Great Britain’s Author’s Club. A high point of her career came in 1986, when her novel Mrs. Caliban was chosen by the British Book Marketing Council as one of the top twenty postwar American novels, placing her work alongside that of Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud.
Ingalls has been called a fabulist writer, and though the label is justified, the themes of her tales make them very much adult fables. Often, Ingalls’s stories and novels focus on failed relationships, the difficulty for women of finding satisfying ways of life, and the granting to her heroines of only brief moments of redemption from a stifling existence. These themes are especially clear in Mrs. Caliban and Binstead’s Safari. In both books, the heroine is at first trapped in a loveless marriage; then, especially in the fantastic section of the story, the heroine is liberated from her stunted existence by an affair with a mysterious being. The acclaimed Mrs. Caliban, for example, starts with the protagonist, Dorothy, living her routine existence in a dull, unhappy marriage—making meals, shopping, listening to the radio. These details support a point that critics make about...
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