This book had me wanting to be a dog-walker so I could have a meet-cute with a hot widower until (thank god), it didn’t | The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins


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? – Goodreads

TL;DR: I should have known that The Wife Upstairs was a retelling of Jane Eyre as soon as I read the names “Jane” and “Eddie.” But, in my defense, it has been literally a decade since I’ve read Jane Eyre, and, I was totally expecting a twisty psychological thriller. Which this book isn’t. At all.

I’m both glad and not glad that I read this book without knowing what it was going to be about: glad because I had no preconceived notions going into the book (and hence, get spoiled), and not glad because, damn, I could have skipped reading this altogether.

That’s not to way this book was horrible. It wasn’t at all. I enjoyed the Gothic themes of the past casting a shadow over the future and the big broody house tainted by a tragedy; I also appreciated the themes of money and, more specifically, the social commentary of the upper class (Southern) lifestyle.

And I really, really liked our MC, Jane. She is the most b i t t e r character I have ever read in a thriller, or, honestly, any book for that matter, and though I probably won’t ever be friends with her (or maybe I will? I haven’t decided yet), I chuckled at her dark sarcasm and judgments. Though, her bitterness goes away the further on we read, so we lose some of that flavor in her character. Still, she is, for sure, the star of the book…

Before I get into the other parts, I want to preface that, like always, this review will not contain any spoilers. However, if you’ve read Jane Eyre or are familiar with the story in any way, you will basically know 60% of the plot. Of course, The Wife Upstairs isn’t as drawn out, complex, or angsty as Jane Eyre, but the basic skeleton of the former runs parallel with the latter.

Okay, now, let’s get into it.

The main thing that made me not love this novel is the fact that it’s SLOW. Guh. I understand it’s a retelling, homage, what have you, of Jane Eyre (which I remember also dragging out, lol), but The Wife Upstairs itself is marketed as a thriller, so obviously, I looked for a thriller; for more clues, tension, and sinister moments that had me at the edge of my seat.

Instead, I was basically just waiting for the author to spell out the twist for me (again, I had no idea this novel was a retelling of Jane Eyre; I know, silly me). I was just reading, along for the ride, but not convicting anyone in my head like I normally would because there had been no reason to: the book is just so slow that my interest waned the further on I read.

And, I think the main reason why this book read so slowly for me was that there is hardly any tension, suspense, anxiety…None of the characters act shady, our MC hardly suspects (which I find really unrealistic!), and worse of all, when the twist is finally revealed, everything and everyone is just all calm and cool as cucumbers. Which does not make sense, and in fact, this lack of emotion took me out of the story.

Finally, the ending. It’s not a bad ending by any means, but it just kind of peters out, made even more *shrug* since we don’t really get any strong emotional reactions from any of the characters that lead up to it.

Ultimately, as a retelling of Jane Eyre, The Wife Upstairs did its job. As a twisty thriller, it did not. Depends on what you’re in the mood for, really.

Read: 08/23/22 – 08/26/22

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