The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins Review

Cover of "The Wife Upstairs: A Novel" by Rachel Hawkins. New York Times Bestselling author. Background depicts a blue wallpaper with white flowers. A white stair banister diagonally bisects the lower left corner. The text is large and black.

Will I ever stop talking about Jane Eyre? The world will never know. Just kidding, the answer is no because here I am talking about it here again on the blog. Now I swear to you I did not go looking for this book, this book came on to me. All I did was look for adult fiction books releasing in 2021 on Goodreads and whoop there it was. Some might call it a coincidence, but I will take it as fate.

Now for those of you that only read our blogs and don’t engage with the podcast (shame on you, jk), well I really have a thing for Jane Eyre. I’ve only been on two podcasts so far and in both I have somehow weaseled that novel into our conversation. So just to preface why I love that novel: it was the first book I remember making me genuinely love reading as an adult. Of course, as a child I read hundreds of kids fiction and YA like the typical Hunger Games, Twilight, Percy Jackson, and all those usual tween dystopian reads. But it was Jane Eyre that truly made me love “classic” literature. It was the reason I changed my major for the fourth time–but hey, who kept count (definitely my dad). And well, after completing my MA in English this past semester I think it’s safe to say…it stuck this time. And I owe it all to Jane Eyre.

Now the reason Jane Eyre enters this blog post is because I just finished reading The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins. The novel is a modern-day retelling of Jane Eyre. So naturally the protagonist is named Jane and the love interest is none other than the illusive Mr. Rochester–however, here he goes by Eddie, which, I won’t lie, makes me cringe every time. Now those two are drama within their character identities alone, but I’ll refrain from mentioning the mystery behind their identity to keep this review spoiler free. So, moving forward all you need to know is that Jane and Eddie are the novels main characters just like in Jane Eyre.

Now the setting is no longer Northern England, but it is now in Birmingham, Alabama. Which if you ask me, makes no difference in the novel. Because just like in Jane Eyre, the setting in The Wife Upstairs isn’t a real big player. In both novels the setting could probably be anywhere in the world. What matters is the characters, so Hawkins stays true to Brontë’s work there.

Now without getting spoiler-y, I want to let y’all know that I absolutely loved this novel. At times I found myself getting upset that Jane wasn’t acting like Jane. But then I stopped and asked myself, what would Jane be like 174 years in the future? And the answer is, I think Hawkins comes really close to depicting that age. This Jane is hardened by her time spent in the foster care and has seen some sh-t. Which would not be false given that OG Jane was an orphan who literally witnessed her best (maybe even only?) friend die of tuberculosis. So, there we have it, even Bronte’s Jane has seen some sh-t during her time in the boarding school. Being a modern-day Jane, she is much more unafraid to be alone and willing to go her own way as opposed to Brontë’s Jane, who obviously struggled with independence as that wasn’t exactly something women did in the Victorian Era.

One thing that I will admit to disliking though is the negativity and selfishness in Hawkin’s Jane. Brontë’s Jane as we all know is the sweet and innocent girl who couldn’t hurt a fly. Hell, this girl even forgave her aunt who abused her all throughout her childhood just so her aunt wouldn’t go to hell. Brontë’s Jane cared about people more than she cared about herself. And now while I do not condone that type of behavior because hey–I am a firm believer in every woman for themselves.  I just wish Hawkin’s Jane was not the antithesis in that aspect. So, while this isn’t the Jane I would’ve written myself had I even attempted to rewrite Jane Eyre, I enjoyed this cool girl Jane that has more secrets than I can count.

Now before I leave you, I must leave you with this golden line that I literally had to shut my book closed and scream when I finished reading.

ID: “Reader, I fucked him.”

I gave this book 5 stars for this line alone. Like, Brontë has made me swoon over the line “Reader, I married him” for years! And now this! All jokes aside, this book was a quick fun read and a paid a good homage to our Tried and True Jane Eyre.

-Daniela

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