Book Review: The Wife Upstairs

Book Review: The Wife Upstairs

Posted: March 16, 2021


The Wife Upstairs


Rachel Hawkins


January 05, 2021



I’m going to start out by saying that this book was the first one in a long time I absolutely could not put down for the life of me. I was torn between wanting the story to last, and the overwhelming need to see where the latest twist would lead to. Rachel Hawkins’ The Wife Upstairs is a modern-day retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and while I’m not sure if it’s a sin to read this before I’ve read the original, the fact that I now want to go pick up Jane Eyre speaks to the benefits of modernizing classics.

The story begins with Jane arriving as the new neighborhood dog walker in Thornfield Estates, a gated community in Birmingham Alabama. This ultra-wealthy bubble of decadence comes with all the intrigue and gossip you would expect, and I was instantly hooked. While at first Jane is looked down upon, she quickly catches the eye of Eddie, recently widowed and looking very suspicious. As they get caught up in a whirlwind romance, Jane gets closer to finding out what really happened to his previous wife Bea, and Eddie gets closer to unearthing Jane’s equally mysterious past.

A lady on a shopping spree
See: Jane, swiping Eddie's credit card faster than the bodies are dropping

The book is written in first-person point of view, and rotates through different characters perspectives throughout the story. There was no “good” guy, and I can’t say that one person was completely likeable. Jane herself was completely flawed: selfish, petty, a kleptomaniac, and absolutely human. She spoke openly about her endgame and how she planned to manipulate her way there. It was a guilty pleasure to fall into her world, and despite everything I genuinely wanted her to reach her goals. Hawkins also does a solid job at making sure readers don’t have the entire story until she wants you to. All the characters are telling their own version of the truth. It was well-rounded in that way, and led to discussions over moral grey areas instead of deciding for readers who the “right” parties were within conflicts.

The language is to-the-point and unsophisticated. This book isn’t about to send you running off to the dictionary, but that wasn’t the point of it. The value that the author has created here is in believable first-person accounts of several deeply flawed characters. Jane’s internal thoughts are unfiltered, raw, and exactly what you’d expect from a character who has been hurt and hiding for the majority of her life. It was actually a refreshing break from well-to-do protagonists who never make a moral misstep, and at times I was laughing out loud at the interactions between Jane and the rest of the neighborhood housewives.

A gated-off mansion
That's why their gates are so big. They're full of secrets.

The subject matter can be self-indulgent as you sink into the posh lifestyle of Thornfield Estates, but all the petty gossip and loaded conversations have purpose behind them, clueing readers in to the next layer of what becomes several mysteries. More than anything, this book is fun. Overall I was able to guess how some of the plot was going to go throughout the first half of the story, but there were a lot of good zingers in there waiting to be unleashed. It’s actually difficult to analyze too much of the plot without giving anything away, as the story evolves so quickly.

All in all, The Wife Upstairs is easily one of my favorites of the year, and I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone looking for a witty, self-aware thriller of a book.





Entertainment Value




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