Rachel Hawkin‘s The Wife Upstairs is a modern take on Jane Eyre by Charoltte Bronte. Jane is a young woman in her 20s with secrets. She just moved to Birmingham, Alabama from Arizona to escape her past. She walks dogs for money in a rich neighborhood called Thornhill Estates. However, Jane is bitter about her clients owning earrings and shirts that cost more than her rent, so she frequently steals small items from them. Then, one rainy day as she is admiring a house in the neighborhood, she is almost run over. The driver is Eddie Rochester, whose wife, Bea, went missing in a boating accident 6 months earlier. Jane sees Eddie as an opportunity to live a life she only imagined. Above all, Eddie is how she can outrun her past for good. As it turns out, Jane isn’t the only one in Thornhill with secrets.
What I have is, after all, like winning the fucking lottery, and I’ve learned the hard way that wanting more is what fucks you in the end.The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
THIS. WAS. SO. MUCH. FUN. In terms of it being a beach-read thriller, which is exactly what I was in the mood for. I have been wanting to read this novel for a while, but the waiting list from my library took forever. Before I discuss my thoughts I want to let you know about doesthedogdie.com. If you can’t tell, it’s lets you know if a dog dies in the novel. (Speaking of dogs, check out my dogs Remus and Tonks). However, it does more than that now. It lets you know about various trigger warnings and if they appear in the novel/movie you search. I’m going to list trigger warnings for the novel towards the end of my post, as some find trigger warnings spoiling.
Comparing to the Classic
I read Jane Eyre back in high school, but if I’m being honest, I don’t remember much about it. All I remember is a wife being hidden upstairs and the house burning down. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of classics in general, so I don’t plan on reading it again to compare to this novel. However, when I saw the title, I thought of Jane Eyre. When I read the book, I also thought of Jane Eyre. If you’re a fan of the classics, I’m sure comparing the two would add another layer of fun that I am missing out on.
I loved the setting in a affluent southern neighborhood. While it didn’t entirely capture the passive aggressiveness of southern women, but it got the gossipy bit down well. It reminds me of why I enjoy not being overly friendly with my neighbors. However, Jane was a bit too good at fitting in. It should have been a bit more of a struggle to get the neighborhood women to accept her into their group.
Moving on from that, there is a big twist in the novel that I’m sure lots of readers will guess at, but I didn’t! However, I’m one of those readers who doesn’t try to figure out what’s going on and just rides the thrills out to the end. I wouldn’t say the twist is original, but it was enough for me.
The ending was perfect. It was one of those that makes it clear the story is over, but leaves a bit open ended so your imagination can run wild. Okay, I’ll admit there are a few things at the end that don’t make sense and maybe a couple holes, BUT I felt it was fitting
No one was very likable. You are told the story from the POV of the three main characters: Jane, Eddie, and Bea. All have their own agenda. To me, the characters are complex. We learn about their childhoods and personal struggles. We see good and bad sides. Lastly, we see how they came to make the adult decisions they did. However, none of that lead me to like them. Personally, I hope I never encounter anyone like them in real life.
As far as I understand, this is a mild thriller. I mentioned it before, but I do feel like this is a beach-read or a pool-side-read for those who aren’t a fan of the typical contemporary romances. I’m very happy to have read this book. It helped me get out of a reading funk and lit a spark inside me. I’m not really one to give star ratings, but what the heck… 4 out of 5 stars from me!
A man who overestimates his intelligence is a man who can be easily manipulated.The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Book Club Questions
- Have you read any other Jane Eyre retellings? How does this one compare?
- How are Jane and Bea alike/different? Are you sympathetic?
- What do you think about Jane’s stealing before and after she comes into wealth?
- Why do you think Eddie changed his will?
- Jane, Eddie, and Bea frequently reference their childhood. How did their upbringing influence their adult decisions?
The stressful part is always making the decision. Once you’ve made it, it’s done and you feel better.The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
addiction, alcohol abuse, burned alive, teeth damaged, parent dies, kidnapping, cheating, shower/bath scene, gaslighting, domestic violence, drowning, profanity
While the novel does include the above listed, I wouldn’t say they were graphic depictions.
Enjoy this? Why not check out some of my other blog posts?
- The Wife Upstairs – Book Review
- Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – Book Review
- The Pizza Predicament
- 15 Books I Want to Read Again
- A Day in the Life of a South Korean Middle School Student
Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows follows a writing class for Punjabi widows that morphed from an ESL class to an erotic creative writing class. Giggling and shy, the women use these stories to demand the respect and authority they desire in their everyday life. Throw in a little romance and murder mystery all mixed together with the immigrant experience, and Jaswal has created a novel that pleases all readers, in more ways than one. *wink*
Fiery-eyed and indignant, they would pen their stories for the whole world to read.Balli Kaur Jaswal, Erotic Stores for Punjabi Widows
The main character, Nikki, is a daughter of Indian immigrants. She has grown up with the mindset of your average millennial, but choices come at a price. Nikki struggles at home with the pressures to follow cultural expectation. However, she watches as the Punjabi widows in her class defy these cultural expectations.
Nikki never imagined these traditional widows would be interested in erotic stories, much less write them. The widows all crave something they can’t have or never had in their lives. The classes started off as a secret rebellion, something not to be shared outside the classroom. But, it’s hard to keep a secret. Especially ones about newlywed Indian women taking control in the bedroom.
Death is better than life if a girl doesn’t have her honor. Sometimes the younger generation needs this reminder.Balli Kaur Jaswal, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
When I picked up this book, I was a little worried I would be lost in a culture I knew nothing about. However, Jaswal does a fantastic job of educating the reader about Punjabi and Indian culture. She does this in a humorous way that allowed me to comfortably slip into a foreign culture.
Perhaps passion and excitement were meant to be secondary to a stable adult life.Balli Kaur Jaswal, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
Trying to compare this to any other book is futile. It’s unlike anything I’ve come across before. It was such a new experience and everyone should try reading it. There is some sexually explicit scenes, but the erotic stories are italicized so you can easily skip over them if you want. Usually, the stories don’t go into too much detail and they aren’t long and drawn out.
Overall, highly recommend! 5 out of 5! Please read it so I can have someone to discuss it with!