Overall Rating: 3/5
I knew I had to read The Wife Upstairs when I learned that it is a reimagined twist on Charlotte Bronte’s classic (and one of my favorite novels), Jane Eyre. Set in the modern world, the novel follows a young woman, Jane, whose ambition is limited by dismal circumstances and spirit is haunted by a dark past. She finds herself walking dogs in an affluent neighborhood to make ends meet when she meets Eddie, a wealthy widower who is poised to change her life in all the ways that she has been hoping for. But secrets from both of their pasts threaten the life they wish to build together – one of which is living in their very home. Now, I will confess that it has been many years since I last read Jane Eyre, but I still struggled with reviewing this book as its own entity versus the inevitable comparisons my mind drew up to its muse.
While drawing on the hallmarks of bildungsroman as accomplished in Jane Eyre might not have been the intent of this novel, the lack of attention to character building and the unbalanced emphasis on creating suspense ultimately did this book a disservice in my eyes. There were certainly elements of the novel that I enjoyed – the writing is engaging, the characters are nuanced (albeit this only becomes evident in later chapters), and the shift in character perspectives was a pleasant and welcome surprise. However, the plot’s pacing and the lack of character and relationship development prevented me from really enjoying the book. Key shifts in narrative occurred very abruptly, and I would have liked to see them set up a little better. Similarly, all of the phases in Jane and Eddie’s journey felt glossed over – from their budding romance to Jane’s growing suspicions around her new beau. Moreover, both Jane’s past as well as her relationship with Eddie were less developed than I had hoped. Most, if not all, of the characters were neither likable nor relatable – and I found myself craving Jane Eyre’s authentic spirit.
Would I have enjoyed this novel more had I not known it was based on Jane Eyre? Maybe. Ultimately, I believe the book would have been better off marketed as a regular mystery/thriller because besides the characters’ names and well, the wife upstairs, there was little to no resemblance to the beloved classic. It actually reminded me more of Colleen Hoover’s Verity, which is an excellent read and closer in essence to The Wife Upstairs. I would love to hear what you think, especially if you are someone who has not read Jane Eyre (but also, what are you doing?). Comment your thoughts below!