The Wife UpstairsThe Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

“My Jane,” he says, his voice low and rough, and I swallow hard, nothing feigned now, no illusion.

“I’m not yours,” I manage to say. “I’m free as a fucking bird.”

now, this is a jane eyre i can get behind. you may groan and growl, with your do we really need another retelling of Jane Eyre?

and i say YES!

it’s a breezy adaptation, set amongst alabama’s idle rich, whose gossipy tongues start wagging once the help—their neighborhood’s plain-jane dogwalker—catches the eye of the recently-widowed eddie rochester (a terrible boating accident involving his wife bea—née bertha—and her bestie blanche), quickly making herself right at home in his spacious mansion.

It’s been two weeks since I more or less moved in with Eddie, two weeks of soft linens and sinking into the plush sofa in the living room in the afternoon, watching bad reality shows on the massive television.

I’m never leaving this place.

however, that final sentence becomes a bit ominous to those of us who have read Jane Eyre and are familiar with the fact that sometimes, a wife isn’t “dead” so much as ‘locked up in the attic, and pretty unhappy about the whole situation.”

it’s a surprisingly fun and twisty bit of domestic suspense; there’s plenty that stays true to the original, with little references dropped throughout, but jane is a lot more modern, a lot less willing to endure her station in life—coming up in the foster care system has taught her that in this world, you gotta take what you can get and keep moving.

jane isn’t even her real name, she’s changed it after fleeing an incident in her last foster home; embarking on the path towards carving out a rage-to-riches story on the strength of her own grit, determination, and calculated manipulations, with some light kleptomania along the way. “jane” has a strong personality and a potty mouth, but she’s learned how to survive by playing the game, coveting so badly what the rich take for granted.

I had no idea you could spend over a thousand dollars on fucking solar lamps that look like gaslights.

But here I am, loading up packages of those lights into the back of Eddie’s SUV, his credit card practically smoking in my wallet. He won’t care, I know—he told me to get “whatever it is Emily has decided she can’t live without”—but I was eating ramen and cereal for just about every meal only a few months ago, so hearing the cashier at Home Depot say, “That’ll be $1023.78,” as I checked out with nothing more than lights made my chest hurt.

My first week on the Neighborhood Beautification Committee is obviously going really well.

it’s a story about class, identity, and secrets, and jane isn’t the only one here with skeletons in her attic.

and speaking of that attic, View Spoiler »

in any case, it’s a fun spin on the original, bringing some much-appreciated lightness, humor, and female ferocity to a story that used to be about how great it is to be patient and is now about how great it is to be proactive.


i keep winning so many gr giveaways because 2020 is like the one who broke your heart and then tried to win you back by giving you lots of gifts. keep ’em coming, 2020; maybe you’ll get lucky.

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