Book Reviews: The Rose Code & The Wife Upstairs

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Goodreads blurb: 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?

My take: 4 out of 5. Lots to say about this book. It is a very direct retelling of Jane Eyre, down to using most of the same names, however in a modern setting. Unlike Jane Eyre , which I have to admit i haven’t reread since middle school but I remember liking the character, every single character in this book is unlikeable. Which might make them very real, its just weird that I liked a book where i really was not rooting for any of the characters they were all so flawed. However in the mystery setting it made it quite appealing as really you would expect terrible things from everybody so everyone was in the game. Knowing Jane Eyre the climax was a bit predictable, even though it was beautifully done, but what i really enjoyed was the more Feminist 21st century ending. A little bit like what happened when I saw the revival of My Fair Lady on Broadway a couple years back, that without changing the text, just one action made the whole storyline so much more applicable to the modern world. It made you questioned why you thought a kind of abusive relationship was so charming. Without giving any spoilers, the ending also gives a node to a more 21st century Jane Eyre. This is a good book for people who likes their mysteries with a bit more romance, a little 21st century Gothic.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Goodreads blurb: 1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart. 1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger–and their true enemy–closer… 

My take: 4.5 out of 5. I got an advanced copy to this book which comes out on March 9th. I said it last week here, I’ve said it many times in this blog and Ill say it again, I love female historical fiction war stories. I also loved the movie the Imitation Game so this book seemed right up my alley. I was right. It is such a good story! I “read” this one in audiobook and although i usually keep my audiobooks for driving and walking and do regular book readings at home, I was so hooked to how this ended that i ended up sitting at home in the weekend hearing the end of this book, that says a lot. I enjoyed the double chronology of the story, mixing the current 1947 story with a chronological story line starting at the end of the 30s. There were plenty of well placed nuggets of info in the future that made you think you had things figured out and then reality wasn’t what you thought it was going to be. The three main women are totally different but all very real and well developed characters. Relatable and engaging without loosing their human quirks and flaws. I love a good written female character and here are three of them. As for the mystery, i really had no idea until the end. Usually I’m pretty good at knowing how things will work out but this one was played nicely close to the chest. I also appreciated the historical characters sprinkled throughout the story. You don’t miss anything if you don’t, but if you do, its a nice little Easter Egg. I went down a rabbit hole of google after reading, like i usually do with historical fiction that i like, and i found that my favorite character, Osla, is actually very similar (I’m sure she is based on it, can we get a book club discussion guide over here) to a real like character, Osla Benning who also dated Prince Philip! This made me like the book even more. Kickass female stories for the win.

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