Book Review: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife Upstairs

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Narrators: Emily Shaffer, Kirby Heyborne, & Lauren Fortgang

Publication Date: 05 January 2020

Genre: Adult Fiction – Domestic Suspense

Length: 8 hours 39 minutes

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (Flatiron Books – print)

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, Rachel Hawkins’s The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

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?

More often than not, I really enjoy going into retellings being familiar with the original story to see how the new version has taken a fresh perspective. Well, in the case of The Wife Upstairs, I have never read nor seen Jane Eyre (I have no desire to read any Austen or Bronte, and I’m not going to start now), so I went into this book with zero expectations. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at how this absolute train wreck played out. 

For a book that takes place in modern day Alabama, which means there’s no shortage of front porches, sweet tea, and people who think they are a part of the bourgeoisie, this book still does an incredible job of maintaining a creepy and gothic type feel. I know that sounds oxymoronic, but just trust me on that one. 

As far as characters, I won’t say that any of this cast is particularly likable. It is evident from the beginning that everyone is out for themselves, and they will destroy anyone or anything standing in their way. Jane has to live in the shadow of Eddie’s previous wife Bea, which definitely messes with her psyche. While Eddie may look like Mr. GQ, his mannerisms dictate otherwise. 

I don’t want to give anything else away because this story is literally a rollercoaster of WTF. There were some plot twists that I saw coming, and then there were others that rudely left my jaw on the floor. All in all, I devoured this book in one sitting, and I have no regrets. 

As far as the narration goes, this cast does a spectacular job of bringing this audiobook to life. I am a huge Lauren Fortgang fan, and of course, she does an incredible job as per usual. 

Thank you to Macmillan Audio and Libro.fm for providing an advanced listening copy. Thank you to Flatiron books for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own. 

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