Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins


Jane Eyre is one of my favorite literary classics, so when I found out that this was a (loose) retelling of the story, only as a murder mystery, I was so excited. And it's really good, too. Jane is living in the South, working as a dog-walker for a snobby suburban community, when she is nearly run over by a man named Eddie. Eddie is good-looking, rich, and single. Surely, it must be too good to be true. How could a man like him be alone? Well, he wasn't always. He had a wife, and then one day, she and her friend disappeared, never to be found.

Jane and Eddie have a whirlwind romance and she enjoys lording her new-found power and status among the people who used to look down her noses at her. But the more she learns about her new, soon-to-be-husband's past wife, who lurks in every shadow of their home, the more she wonders... what really happened to Bea Rochester?

So, some of my friends weren't crazy about this one but I LOVED it. There are three narrators, told in parts: Jane, Bea, and Eddie. I loved the decision to make Jane kind of a jaded and bitter opportunist. I love morally ambiguous women and her character felt totally believable to me. I loved the Southern Gothic vibes of the setting (that flooded forest beneath the lake! POETRY). I even liked Bea, who was hardly a saint herself. And Eddie-- well, maybe he's not the Mr. Rochester you're looking for, but his relationship to both Bea and Jane was both complex and, sometimes, HOT.

I would say this is more of an homage than a straightforward retelling but I think it fits comfortably in the niche of domestic thrillers that seem to be so popular these days. It actually reminded me a lot of Rebecca Reid's THE TRUTH HURTS, so I think if you enjoyed that book, you'll love this one.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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