My parents were both avid readers and often discussed their reading choices with me. This is probably why I have an appreciation for classic literature between the 1930s to the 1970s. Leave Her to Heaven by Ben Ames William is one such classic, published in 1944. I had previously read two of his historical fiction novels and was excited to listen to an audiobook of one of his other works. I was rewarded with another excellent story.
Leave Her to Heaven does not actually have any dates in terms of specific years. I have tried to date it by the omission of any mention of war, the existence of airplanes, Warm Springs operating as a polio institution, and have come up with anywhere between the 1920s to the late 1930’s. I tried researching it to pin it down but was unable to.
The main character is Harland. He is a successful author, raised in privilege. Since the death of his parents, he now supports his younger brother Danny who is recovering from infantile paralysis, polio. Harland is in his thirties and Danny is thirteen. They have a very close relationship before Danny is sick and afterwards they become even closer. They keep each other strong as they struggle with Danny’s recovery.
Harland’s relationship with Danny lives at the heart of the book. He is not a person seeking fulfillment in a relationship. He tries to keep Danny as active as he can be and tries to find activities they can do together. When he and Danny are invited to a friend’s ranch in the west, Danny encourages Harland to go although he cannot accompany him. As Harland travels by train, he notices a beautiful woman reading his latest book. This beautiful woman, Ellen, is headed to the same ranch he is.
When they meet on the way out to the ranch, Harland is enchanted by her beauty. Ellen immediately sets her cap for him even though she is engaged to a lawyer in Maine. At the ranch, Ellen’s sister, Ruth and mother, watch as Ellen manipulates her way into marrying Harland before they leave the ranch. He is not truly in love with her but allows himself to be swept of his feet.
Ellen will stop at nothing to possess all of Harland. She is jealous of his brother, his writing, or anything that she is not wholly the focus of. It is a fascinating study of a woman whose possessiveness becomes deadly. While some characters realize there is something wrong with Ellen, others are easily manipulated to fulfill her plans. No one is safe while Ellen breathes. Or even after.
Mike Dennis does a wonderful job narrating the book. He does a great job with the male vs. female voices. The language in the book reflects the time period in which it was written. Mr. Dennis handles the dated language well. It flows and seems very natural. I would definitely listen to another book narrated by Mr. Dennis. The production quality was excellent.
Audiobook provided by Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for honest review.