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The Wife Upstairs: A Novel Audio CD – Unabridged, January 5, 2021
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Instant New York Times and USA Today Bestseller
“Compulsively readable...a gothic thriller laced with arsenic.” ––EW
One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2021: CNN • Newsweek • Vulture • PopSugar • Parade • BuzzFeed • E!Online • TimeOut • Woman's Day • Goodreads • She Reads • Good Housekeeping • CrimeReads • Frolic • Hello!• Mystery and Suspense
January 2021 Indie Next Pick and #1 LibraryReads Pick
A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.
Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.
But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.
Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?
With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?
A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press
“A compulsively readable tale that flips Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre on its head…a gothic thriller laced with arsenic.” -- EW
About the Author
- Publisher : Macmillan Audio; Unabridged edition (January 5, 2021)
- Language : English
- ISBN-10 : 1250752469
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250752468
- Item Weight : 7.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.17 x 0.84 x 5.94 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,426,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on January 7, 2021
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Rather than Jane's original England of the 19th century, we are now in an exclusive suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, in the present day. Rather than a governess, Jane is a dog-walker (the original book's Adele, Rochester's ward, is a dog here -- super fun!). The mysterious "late" Bertha Mason Rochester is now Bea Rochester, a super-rich retail mogul who's built her fortune on designing "where DID you find that" jewelry, clothing, and housewares sought-after and desired by "real" women and "unreal" women alike. (Beyond gossip, the humorous group of former debutantes who inhabit Thornfield Estates have few challenges to surmount, unless you count the "challenge" of trying to decide if it's a good idea to decorate the neighborhood's front entry flower bed in Auburn and Alabama colors.) Throughout, Ms. Hawkins includes many creative, "see what a I did there" neat turns, especially with names and situations from the original.
I'd call this a re-imagining of "Jane Eyre" rather than a retelling, as it is not a play-by-play transfer of all of the events from Jane Eyre to a modern-day setting. I also would not go into this book expecting utter faithfulness to the original story.
I enjoyed the book very much even despite the fact that I mostly knew what was around the corner or, more specifically, what was upstairs. I might have even given it five stars were it not for two key things that earned it only four for me:
The character of Jane being drawn as having a very elastic conscience. She has no problem with theft (she regularly pilfers jewelry from her dog-walker employers) or lying (almost everything that comes out of her mouth when speaking to other characters is either a half-truth or an outright lie). The latter does make her an interesting unreliable narrator, but this kind of characterization is extremely out of step with Bronte's Jane, who has become famous over the centuries for her moral fiber. And while we do believe that Hawkins' Jane does have feelings for Mr. Rochester, she is also quite manipulative and conniving in her efforts to try to get him to "put a ring on it." (But don't worry, dear reader -- when super-rich, hot, extremely eligible Eddie Rochester chooses mousy, plain, churchmouse-poor Jane, it is every bit as bewildering here as it is in Bronte's original.)
My final reason for the lopped-off fifth star is the egregious saturation of profanity throughout the novel, as many, many other readers have already shared. I do NOT mind profanity -- and am sorry to say I use it quite often myself. But it is so over-the-top here, out of the mouths of almost every character, in spoken language and in internal thought monologues -- you can't go two pages without tripping over some form of an F-bomb, and that is not an exaggeration -- that it's disruptive, off-putting, and absolutely unnecessary. This is most evident in Jane, whose Olympic-league potty mouth only serves to make her appear crass, crude, and lacking in redeeming qualities.
If you like a good story, though, and admire creative re-toolings of very recognizable people and situations from the original, don't let the two above detractions stop you. Didn't stop me.
Additionally, the city of Birmingham and its suburbs were superbly written and represented, and, like in any good gothic novel, the setting was a character in and of itself.
If you’re looking for something groundbreaking and life changing, the truth is that this won’t be it. But if you are looking for a well written modern mystery or a creative retelling of a gothic classic, you can’t go wrong here.
Jane and Eddie have a whirlwind romance and she enjoys lording her new-found power and status among the people who used to look down her noses at her. But the more she learns about her new, soon-to-be-husband's past wife, who lurks in every shadow of their home, the more she wonders... what really happened to Bea Rochester?
So, some of my friends weren't crazy about this one but I LOVED it. There are three narrators, told in parts: Jane, Bea, and Eddie. I loved the decision to make Jane kind of a jaded and bitter opportunist. I love morally ambiguous women and her character felt totally believable to me. I loved the Southern Gothic vibes of the setting (that flooded forest beneath the lake! POETRY). I even liked Bea, who was hardly a saint herself. And Eddie-- well, maybe he's not the Mr. Rochester you're looking for, but his relationship to both Bea and Jane was both complex and, sometimes, HOT.
I would say this is more of an homage than a straightforward retelling but I think it fits comfortably in the niche of domestic thrillers that seem to be so popular these days. It actually reminded me a lot of Rebecca Reid's THE TRUTH HURTS, so I think if you enjoyed that book, you'll love this one.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Left some things hanging, no closure with some of the characters she left behind, Emily or John.....
Will there be another book to follow this one?
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Thrillers are not usually my genre, but I'd seen quite a lot of hype around this book, and on learning it was a modern twist on the Gothic classic Jane Eyre (one of my favourite novels), I had to check it out.
Overall this was probably an average read for me. I probably wouldn't have read it if it wasn't a spin on Jane Eyre, and the fact that I love the original classic likely makes me a bit unfavorably biased towards this as no way does this book measure up even a fraction to Jane Eyre. It feels utterly bland in comparison in every single way. However, Charlotte Bronte is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest writers in English Literature, such that its probably an unfair comparison. Furthermore, this book is advertised more as a twist on a classic rather than a retelling. As such, whilst initially I found myself disappointed, once I was able to set aside Jane Eyre, I ended up enjoying this more for a book in its own right.
Certainly I can see why Hawkins has taken inspiration from Bronte's classic for the premise of a thriller, and it works well, even if overall I think it could have been executed better.
Whilst the basic premise is from Jane Eyre, the characters only really very loosely resemble Bronte's. This Jane is not at all naive or innocent, and to begin with I was rather jolted by her character. Like Bronte's Jane, this Jane has had a troubled upbringing, having been brought up in care, and Hawkins hints and teases as to the mystery of her past for a lot of the book. Whilst I was initially thrown by Jane's character here, I did like the fact that she was rather more street-wise than she let on and had her own agenda, as I think it made for a more interesting dynamic. That said, one of my gripes with the book is that absolutely none of the characters are likeable, such that by the end I simply regarded the whole lot of them as a toxic bunch, and wasn't all too bothered by what happened to them.
The book is primarily set in a suburban neighbourhood, with a lot of rich and glamorous housewives, such that it does have a bit of a Desperate Housewives feel. Some parts did feel a bit dull and dragged out in this regards, such as all Jane's community meetings as she tried to fit in. However, the setting did also work, as you get the sense of more going on behind closed doors than meets the eye, and certainly as secrets and hidden skeletons begin to emerge, the undercurrent of tension and all the wagging tongues in this otherwise rather mundane setting did add to the atmosphere.
The book is primarily told from Jane's point of view, but there are sections narrated by Bea and some flashbacks, and also a section near the end from Eddie's point of view. The story for the most part is told at quite a sedate pace, though there are certainly some twists and turns and the drama escalates at the end.
I found Jane and Eddie's romance rather wooden and contrived, and certainly Eddie has none of Mr Rochester's charisma, however again I don't think the intention is for this Eddie to really resemble Bronte's brooding hero.
I did like the little nods to the classic, such as Jane (whose real name is not actually Jane, but Helen), having a childhood friend (the real Jane) whilst she was in foster care, who died, as I thought this was a playful twist on the original story where Jane Eyre's close friend Helen dies whilst they are at school together.
Overall this was quite a quick and easy read, which once I put my expectations and biases aside, was engaging enough. Perhaps if I had cared about some of the characters at least, I might have enjoyed it more. Also for a thriller, I kind of felt the tension and suspense probably ought to have been notched up a gear or two, as this felt pretty mild.
The story starts with Jane, a dog-walker in a fancy, rich neighbourhood, when she meets a widower Eddie Rochester and her luck takes a turn for a better. Or so she thinks.
It’s one of those books you can devour in one sitting. The pace is incredibly fast and you just need to know what is going to happen next. The sequence of events or characters' choices sometimes made me raise my eyebrows but the writing was engaging enough to keep me interested in the story.
The book is not a shocking thriller by any means. I found the plot to be predictable and twist easy to work out (for someone like me who never read "Jane Eyre"). I would also prefer the the writing and candidates to have a little bit more depth and development but overall it was a good book.
I would highly recommend it especially for readers new to the thriller genre.
I did feel that the main character had some loose ends, her kleptomaniac tendencies and abusive upbringing ultimately held no weight to the plot.