If you are looking for a quick thriller, then this is it. “The Wife Upstairs” by Rachel Hawkins is everything that you would want in a thriller. It keeps the audience hooked from the very first pages and does not invoke fear via deliberate jumpscares or the sorts. Now it is understandable that you have your doubts about the book but Hawkins ensures that such dilemmas are done away with within the first few pages of the book. Such empty validations in favor of the book are surely not what you had come looking for here. So here is an honest review of the book that will help you decide if it’s a choice worthy of your reading list. Keep reading to find out more!
Jane Bell has just moved to Alabama. She lives on the outskirts of the affluent Thornfield Estates neighborhood, where she first works in a coffee shop before transitioning to dog-walking for Thornfield’s wealthy families. She begins to understand the nuances of the upper-class world, idolizing their way of life and every so often stealing a little of it for herself.
Jane is particularly drawn to the largest and perhaps the most opulent property, picturing what it’d be like to live there and when she meets the homeowner, a good-looking young widower named Eddie Rochester, things start to change rapidly for her. Soon they get into a relationship and things seem to start going uphill for Jane.
Jane is curious about Eddie’s late-wife, Bea, (she cannot really help it) whose presence is still very much felt in his life as she and Eddie begin a relationship. The wife was assumed dead supposedly from a car crash. Her body was never found though. There seems to be much speculation about the accident and the deaths that had occurred that day, but no solid conclusion has ever been proposed.
As the couple moves forward with their relationship, questions arise and these questions do not have simple answers. Jane gets more and more drawn towards the mystery of Bea’s death while at the same time battling her own past. She is not willing to let go of her (at least seemingly) perfect relationship with Eddie. She needs to figure out a way before the past of Eddie or the past she has left back in Arizona, catches up with them causing a massacre.
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It is an amazingly entertaining and twisty piece of domestic suspense; there’s much that stays similar to the original, with references are thrown in here and there, but Jane is a lot more contemporary, a lot less willing to suffer her station in life—growing up in the adoption system had already taught her that in this world, one has to take what you can and continue moving.
She changed it after escaping a situation in her previous foster home, forging ahead on, trying to carve out a rage-to-riches journey on the capacity of her own grit, perseverance, and measured manipulations, with a dash of kleptomania thrown in for good measure. “Jane” has a strong character and a bit of a mean streak. She has learned to thrive by playing the game, desiring what the rich take for granted.
It is a light-hearted adaptation set in Alabama’s elite neighborhood, whose chatty tongues begin wagging when the news spreads about how their neighborhood’s plain-Jane dog walker has caught the eye of the recently-widowed Eddie Rochester.
Appearances are not to be trusted here though. The neighborhood is lovely, but behind doors, especially those of the handsome and mysterious widower Eddie Rochester, everything is not quite as it appears. The people, as well, are also not really just people; they are personas. At Thornfield Estates, everybody is attempting to manipulate others’ perceptions of them by influencing their images, and mannerisms. It is a place where even a person’s name may be an innovation, a cover. Ladies on NBC, for example, hide their eyes and hence their true expressions and their souls behind extra-large designer sunglasses, as they adsorb themselves inside extra large champagne-colored or midnight blue SUVs.
It’s an exciting ride. The book’s short, action-packed chapters propel it forward at breakneck speed. Although Hawkins’ Jane is somewhat unlikeable, and it is unclear what initially drew Eddie to her, she is delectably snarky. The narrative is written in the present tense, so it feels immediate. Hawkins’ deft handling of multiple perspectives is what might interest the readers most. Jane is the primary narrator, but we also hear from Bea and Eddie on occasion. Hawkins also has Jane address the audience directly, mirroring Bront’s style and calling Jane’s dependability into question as the protagonist uses phrases such as “trust me” and so on.
The deeper layers of meaning underneath Hawkins’ plot and the shenanigans of the characters were particularly intriguing. She appears to be investigating what happens when both women and men, whether as a result of previous trauma or from a desperate need to obtain and possess, lack a genuine sense of self. In an attempt to make themselves sufficient, they lose themselves, probably to eventually find the whole they were looking for.
Even though many perceive this particular novel as a revisit to the classical Jane Eyre, and even Rachel Hawkins drops hints indicating the same, the novel has its own set of twists and turns. Sometimes though, these twists and turns might be predictable for seasoned thriller lovers. However, for most, it will remain suspense that unfolds itself with the turn of each page.
The manner in which the author infuses the different incidents that occur throughout the pages of the novel is also admirable. The flow of the story feels smooth and the events or the characters never feel like their being imposed upon the readers.
All in all, reading the novel was a good experience. There are certain loopholes and places where the story could have been better narrated or woman, the book offers a fresh and contemporary perspective that relates and relays the plot of the novel with the readers efficiently.