Review: The Wife Upstairs

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 5 January 2021
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads
Find the author: @LadyHawkins (twitter)

Fire and Ice meet again in this modernized, southern gothic inspired retelling of the classic Jane Eyre.

Jane has no family, no friends, and as far as she can tell, no future worth looking forward too. Until she’s almost run over by Eddie Rochester while walking dogs in the exclusive, expensive neighborhood of Thornfield Estates. Their romance starts quick and burns fast, but being Rochester’s lover means Jane is now part of the dark secrets that haunt Thornfield Estate and Eddie’s first wife, Bea.

“Whatever souls were made of, mine and Jane’s were the same–or at least similar enough.”

Hawkins delivers a near perfect thriller in this twisty take on Jane Eyre. The pacing is near perfect, the descriptions are straight out of a Thornfield Housewife’s Instagram account, and the twists are–if you aren’t looking too hard for them–surprising when they hit. Hawkins has created a story that is both a homage to the original and something uniquely its own. A blend that’s hard to find in modern retellings.

Fans of Jane Eyre will enjoy the Easter eggs Hawkins leaves for you to find throughout the book. Sometimes the references can be heavy handed (there are only so many creative ways your characters can say they feel “trapped in a gothic novel” before it gets to be too much) but for the most part Hawkins has blended them in seamlessly with her narrative. The multiple perspectives used throughout have gotten pretty common in the thriller genre, but I liked the chance to peer inside Rochester’s head–an option we’re not really given in the original.

I do wish Jane had been a bit rounder of a character. The time period of the original book explains away a lot of her flaws and dependency on others for her living and her livelihood. Hawkins tries to address these same faults, but as the story went on I found there to be two different Jane’s (the fire and the ice) but without much cohesion or explanation. Jane was who she was when necessary to the plot.

But overall the flaws are small, the book one I enjoyed enthusiastically, and one I’d recommend you add to your January TBR!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*A note on mental illness* While I don’t feel this should necessarily be included as a main part of the review, I do want to bring up the issue of mental illness/insanity that is touched on briefly in the book–and discussed in more detail in the original. Bea writes several times about how she feels “insane” and the question of her sanity and actual mental health is only brought up once at the beginning of her narrative. People who have a mental illness are sick. People who are awful people are just awful people. You don’t need one to be the other. It can be harmful to conflate insanity, gaslighting, and evil under the same umbrella.

Looking for a lighter adaptation: Try My Plain Jane

Read it? Liked it? Adding it to your TBR list? Let me know in the comments!

I received a galley of this book for review purposes

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