I often struggle with newish thrillers… they tend to be a little too formulaic (even with all of their twisty business) and full of characters I can’t stand. Still, this one is inspired by Jane Eyre, so of course I had to give it a try.
What it’s about
From the Goodreads description:
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?
First things first—this book is definitely a contemporary thriller with a lot of the familiar contemporary-thrillery things that can either make me love or hate a book: twists and turns (some you can see coming, others you cannot), characters that you really can’t stand with almost no redeeming qualities, at least one case of insta-love or lust. In this case, all of these things came together well enough that I didn’t roll my eyes the whole time and actually ended up enjoying the story.
The parallels to Jane Eyre definitely helped. Brontë’s classic is one of my favorite books, so I was certainly going to hang in there and see what happened to these modern-day versions of characters I love. This Jane, unlike our beloved Jane Eyre, is not a likable person, and I honestly wasn’t rooting for her at all. This Eddie, though clearly described as gorgeous, is somehow not as appealing as the definitely not-gorgeous Mr. Rochester, and Bea is not a sympathetic character at all, unlike the poor original Bertha. Still, I enjoyed the way Hawkins chose to modernize the story (dogwalker vs governess, Thornfield estates, etc).
The drama and rampant deceitfulness , the bitchy neighbors, and the unexpected turns the story took all made this a quick and enjoyable listen. I really, really disliked the ending, though… I would have preferred an epilogue that didn’t leave things so up in the air. All told, there’s no way The Wife Upstairs will be as memorable for me as Jane Eyre, but it was a fun diversion.
The audiobook is extremely well done. Emily Shaffer and Laura Fortgang narrate expertly for Jane and Bea, alternating bitchiness and charm. I was also pleased to hear Kirby Heyborne read Eddie’s parts—he’s one of my favorite narrators. I definitely recommend this audiobook to fans of twisty thrillers, especially those who will appreciate the Jane Eyre connections.
Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for the chance to listen to this book in exchange for my honest review.