In Catherine Lowell’s smart and original debut novel—“an enjoyable academic romp that successfully combines romance and intrigue” (Publishers Weekly)—the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary treasure hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using only the clues her father left behind and the Brontës’ own novels.
Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. Since her eccentric father’s untimely death, she is the presumed heir to a long-rumored trove of diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts passed down from the Brontë family—a hidden fortune never revealed to anyone outside of the family, but endlessly speculated about by Brontë scholars and fanatics. Samantha, however, has never seen this alleged estate and for all she knows, it’s just as fictional as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.
But everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and long lost objects from the past begin rematerializing in her life, beginning with an old novel annotated in her father’s handwriting. With the help of a handsome but inscrutable professor, Samantha plunges into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontës’ own works.
A fast-paced adventure from start to finish, The Madwoman Upstairs is a smart and original novel and a moving exploration of what happens when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.
American Samantha Whipple's hopes for an uneventful university career at Oxford are soon dashed when she realizes that everyone already knows her family story: she's the last surviving twig of the Bront family tree. What's more, someone is frightening Samantha by surreptitiously planting her late father's copies of Bront novels in Samantha's dorm room. Samantha had thought these were destroyed in the fire that killed her father several years earlier, but they may be cryptic clues to the mysterious Bront estate Samantha stands to inherit. Samantha's maddeningly demanding (and handsome) tutor, James Orville, is no help he flat-out refuses to discuss the Bront s. Lowell's debut novel offers some intriguing speculation about Bront family dynamics, particularly with regard to the life and work of lesser-known sister Anne; the repeated discussions of authorial intent, however, will likely be glossed over by all but the most dedicated English majors. Even without its attraction for Bront -philes, however, this is an enjoyable academic romp that successfully combines romance and intrigue, one that benefits from never taking itself too seriously.
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The Madwoman Upstairs
I will definitely read the Anne Bronte's works, those so closely entwined with this narrative. I am also compelled to revisit Jane Eyre, a favorite from my adolescence. I felt short changed by the abrupt ending to the novel, but that's truly a compliment to the author.
The Madwoman Upstairs is Catherine Lowell’s debut novel. Samantha Wipple is the last living descendant of Patrick Bronte (and the Bronte family). There are many rumors stating that she inherited unique family items, but they are just rumors. In her father’s (Tristan Whipple) odd will, Samantha receives a bookmark. Samantha heads off for a new life at Oxford University to get a degree in English Literature. Samantha is assigned a bedroom in an old tower (where normally students do not live and only tourists visit). There is an unusual portrait over the fireplace. They say that everything happens for a reason and it is very true for Samantha. When books from her childhood start showing up, they lead Samantha on a treasure hunt. Samantha gets help from Professor Orville (her instructor) in figuring out the clues (as well as providing a little romance). Someone else is after the prize. Will Samantha be able to figure out the puzzle before the competition?
I love the description of The Madwoman Upstairs, but the final product was not as enjoyable. I found Samantha to be a complicated and immature (as well as obtuse) person (hard to like her). The novel has long (pages) discussions on books especially books by the Bronte sisters (if you are suffering from insomnia this book will help). The author provided great clues to figure out the mystery, but Samantha had trouble with them (it took her forever to figure them out). I give The Madwoman Upstairs 2.5 out of 5 stars. As you can tell, I really did not enjoy this novel. I found it an odd book. The premise was good (had potential), but I just did not like the final product.
I received a complimentary copy of The Madwoman Upstairs from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review of the book.