I’ve always loved Jane Eyre and love Wide Sargasso Sea too. So when I was offered to the opportunity to read and review The Wife Upstairs, a modern interpretation of the classic story which is published today in digital format, I jumped at the chance.
Jane Eyre is often regarded as one of the most romantic novels of all time, but I doubt anyone would use the word romantic to describe Rachel Hawkins contemporary retelling of the gothic classic. The Wife Upstairs is a menacing, modern day thriller. Please don’t think that because you’ve read Jane Eyre, you will work out the ending of The Wife Upstairs. Just like the characters, the ending is unnerving and unpredictable.
Similar to the original, this contemporary novel is a first-person narrative told mainly from Jane’s point of view. However Jane’s voice is also interwoven with the voice of ‘the mad woman in the attic‘ Bertha, now known as Bea. And then there is the handsome Eddie Rochester who appears to be able to give Jane all she has ever wanted – acceptance and money.
Growing up in foster homes, Jane is a survivor as she contends with social oppression, inequality, and hardship. However I personally struggled to like Jane. I also didn’t trust her which for me enhanced the tension of the novel. But grudgingly my admiration for this modern day protagonist grew.
Wide Sargasso Sea, the 1966 novel written from Bertha’s point of view detailing her marriage to the abusive Edward Rochester is often regarded as a feminist classic as it explores the unequal power between men and women. The Wife Upstairs is also in my view a feminist novel, but rather than exploring the power between men and women, it brilliantly and uncomfortably explores the shifting power between women. This is skilfully portrayed through the women in the Thornfield Estates neighbourhood, a mother and daughter relationship and the dynamic between Jane and Bea.
Set in the deep south of America, Birmingham, Alabama, the intense heat of the setting skilfully adds to the intensity of the story. This is fresh, contemporary crime fiction with dark humour. For example I loved that Jane in The Wife Upstairs is now a dog walker and Adele a puppy. This is an entertaining novel full of twists – but at times I did feel that some of the twists were a tad unnecessary.
The Wife Upstairs is published digitally on 5th January 2021 with the paperback release in April 2021.
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Tours and Harper Collins for inviting me to the blog tour of this menacing thriller. To read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers also in the blog tour, please see below.
Happy reading everyone! 🙂