Book review: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Published January 5th 2021 by St. Martin’s Press


A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, Rachel Hawkins’s The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

“There’s a trick to spinning lies. You have to embed the truth in there, just a glimmer of it. That’s the part that will catch people, and it’s what makes the rest of your lies sound like truth, too.”

The Wife Upstairs is a loose retelling of Jane Eyre. The story follows a young woman Jane with a troubled past she’s running from. Jane finds a shelter inside a rich southern neighborhood, where she is hired to walk local dogs. And soon after she encounters a mysterious owner of Thornfield EstatesEddie Rochester, whose wife has recently disappeared on a boat trip with her best friend. Or was she killed?

What I really liked is the modern look at the beloved classics. Jane is not your demure Jane from the original. She is tough. She has a violent past, which we have glimpses inside throughout the story. She is manipulative and a liar. She is tired of crap she gets in life and wants to receive her share of gold, and if she has to seduce and manipulate a rich widower – then be it, especially if he has nice looks to go with all that money.

The switch between the POVs gave an extra insight into the heads of characters and their motives. I liked how everyone was with dubious morals and you could expect anything from them. Basically, Birmingham, Alabama is a place of wolves, and you have to become one to survive. Which Jane learned to the A.

For me, both Jane and Bea’s (the disappeared wife) voices were the best. You could definitely see similarities between these women. For a while, I thought that Eddie was quite pale compared to his ladies but he had an ace down his sleeve as well.

Why 3 stars then if I enjoyed this psychological thriller so much? I did enjoy how easy the story flowed on the pages; the writing was great. But I guessed all the twists beforehand and some important, in my opinion, plotlines were underdeveloped, especially the ending – my biggest disappointment.I get an open ending thing, but in this case, it just felt like a rushed ending with ripped-off pages. I feel completely unsatisfied by how everything unraveled. Too rushed, too abrupt with many unsaid details.

Overall, The Wife Upstairs is a nice psychological thriller to pass the time. Do not expect a lot from the mystery department, it’s more of a character-driven story with no apparent shock factors. The ending is underwhelming but still, I find the story worth reading.

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