REVIEW: ‘THE WIFE UPSTAIRS’ BY RACHEL HAWKINS

Jane has secrets and so does Eddie. And as the secrets start unveiling, their happy little place cannot be left untouched.

Rachel Hawkins’ first adult novel ‘The Wife Upstairs’ published by Macmillan Publishers on 5th June 2021 is supposed to be an urban, twisted version of the classic ‘Jane Eyre’.

Jane, in her early 20s, while running away from her past has ended up in Birmingham in a shabby apartment with an obnoxious roommate. But her job as a dog walker is in the other side of the town – with identical plush villas and shiny SUVs. Carelessly jumbled pursed on carefully chosen upholstery. Even the people all look the same.

But the villa at the extreme right is a little different, the grass messier, the interiors mismatched, a backyard that overlooks the woods and not other villas. A little rugged. And so is the sole resident of the villa- Eddie Rochester. As soon as Jane stumbled upon Eddie’s red sports car, she seals her fate.

The romance that ensues is swift and full, complete with neighborhood gossip and the sly boasting of becoming an equal. But Jane with her cunning mind and the protected cocoon that is the Rochester home, cannot wrap her head around Eddie’s dead wife, Bea and the mystery that surrounds the ghost of Bea.

Jane never re-decorates the house, never cancels the daily order of fresh flowers that Bea started. But has Jane been truly successful in steering Eddie’s heart towards her?

As an incisive take on Jane Eyre, this novel is steeped in suspense and feminism.

The narration is seasoned and expressive, the story will curl your lips into a sneer at one moment and in awe at another.

The multiple perspectives provided makes the reader privy to a lot of twisted truths, that works wonderfully to escalate the building suspense for the steady reveal.

The themes of forbidden romance, a protected abode and disguised betrayal are similar to that of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, but the detailing of ‘The Wife Upstairs’ reminds me much more of Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ – from Jane’s lack of any physical contribution to the house, the portrayal of a boat and water as the death reaper, till the ultimate confusion of who is the murderer.

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