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  • Mandy McHugh

The Wife Upstairs, Rachel Hawkins: A Review

This book intrigued me from the moment I saw the cover, and I was thrilled to receive an eARC.

Jane and Eddie's whirlwind romance surprises even her, especially considering his first wife is presumed dead. But when new details come to light, she questions if she really knows everything about what happened the night she went missing. What she doesn't know is Eddie has a secret locked away in a hidden room--a secret could threaten her newfound dream life. Full disclosure: I've never cared for Jane Eyre, but I love Wide Sargasso Sea. Because of this, I was expecting more post-colonial rhetoric. Yes, WSS explores power dynamics between genders, and I got some of that based on their physical descriptions and imbalance of wealth. But the bigger picture of Wide Sargasso Sea covers racism, assimilation, and the concept of the Other; and while Jane and Bea/Bertha frequently refer to feeling like an outsider in some capacity, the underlying tone is an observation about socioeconomic status rather than race. Books inspired by or based on literary classics can be difficult to pull off successfully because it's almost impossible for readers not to compare what they know with the contemporary take. And in this situation, I found myself doing just that (and I fully admit that this could be a personal preference) but I found it hard to reconcile the differences between the two. That being said, I didn't not enjoy this book. The alternating voices were interesting and well structured. Jane's our main protagonist, but I especially loved Bea's voice and back story. I could've read an entire book based solely on her toxic dynamic with Blanche. The twists and subtle betrayals are scandalous and carry the intrigue. At times, the characters felt a little flat. Rags to riches, wealthy, handsome, charming man with a secret, gossipy, rich wives in a gated community overly concerned with HOA landscaping. Some of it felt stereotypical, and I never really got a Gothic tone from the narrative--which, in part, was because the "mad woman in the attic" didn't seem all that mad to me. But that didn't detract from the ultimate mystery. Hawkins gave each character a solid blend of sketch and sophistication to keep the suspense moving. Overall, The Wife Upstairs is a twisty suspense with layered characters, but I'm conflicted about my reading of it. Thanks to St. Martin's and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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