The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

I didn’t realize (at first) that this was a modern-day retelling of Jane Eyre (which, despite good intentions, I’ve not yet read). That kind of bummed me out, because I’d ordinarily want to have read the original novel first before diving into something like this. Once I knew what I was reading, I toyed with the idea of setting it aside, but I was already so invested in the story that it would have been impossible for me to do it.

Having absolutely no idea how the original story went might have been a good thing, however. I didn’t have to deal with constantly comparing the two, or (potentially) thinking that the retelling fell short in one area or another. I could simply read it, without the shadow of the literary classic constantly hovering in the back of my mind, and enjoy it (or not) based on its own merits.

And enjoy it, I most certainly did.

The story is narrated by three characters–one of which is very brief, happening at a pivotal moment in the story to completely upend everything you ‘knew’ up to that point. Short as it is, it’s the most important piece of narration in the story (in my opinion) because it tells you very plainly that one narrator, at least, is extremely unreliable… but to what end?

None of the characters–major or minor–are 100% likable, but I often found myself feeling sympathetic towards specific characters despite that–which is pretty notable considering the strong dislike I had for some of them! Hawkins did a very fine job of allowing even the most disagreeable character to have a moment of vulnerability that was so profound, you couldn’t help but feel sympathetic towards them–until their next bit of ugly behavior, at least, which often happened immediately afterwards.

Another thing I loved was how mysterious each of the main characters were. They were all hiding something, and you couldn’t quite get a handle on whether or not they were being truthful and genuine in their interactions with others, or if they were merely having carefully crafted conversations and becoming whomever they needed to be in any given situation. No one is who they appear to be… just when you unravel one mystery (or think you have), another one takes its place.

The Big Reveal was very well done, and I loved the interactions between two of the main players at this point. Both were clinging to personas I now knew to be false, but–just to make things even more interesting–they knew it, too.

The ending was perfect, in my opinion. Readers are given a final touch of mystery, but the clues are heavily suggestive that a certain thing likely happened (and I believe it did). That did raise a couple of questions about , but it didn’t take a large stretch of the imagination for me to come up with a scenario that could easily explain it.

As an added bonus, an alternate ending is included. Much darker in tone, it would have been a thrilling conclusion to the story, as well. Even so, I prefer the ‘official’ ending… it just seemed more fitting all around, in my opinion.

The Wife Upstairs is very well written, with intriguing characters and a complex storyline that kept me guessing from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoying reading it, and now I’m more determined than ever to (finally!) read Jane Eyre.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Author: Rachel Hawkins
Title: The Wife Upstairs
Genre: Domestic Thriller
Publication Date: January 5, 2021 by St. Martin’s Press

About the Book

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?

About the Author

RACHEL HAWKINS is the author of Rebel Belle and the New York Times bestselling series Hex Hall. Born in Virginia and raised in Alabama, Rachel taught high school English for three years before becoming a full-time writer. Follow her on twitter @LadyHawkins.

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