The Mad Woman Upstairs
By: Catherine Lowell
Narrator: Katie Koster
Publication Date: 3/1/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
In Catherine Lowell’s smart and original debut novel—hailed by Deborah Harkness as a “charming and memorable read”—the last remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt, using only the clues her eccentric father left behind, and the Brontës’ own novels. Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. Since her 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 her 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 repurposing the tools of literature and decoding the clues hidden within the Brontës’ own novels. A fast-paced adventure from start to finish for readers who devoured The Weird Sisters and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Madwoman Upstairs is a moving exploration of what happens when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.
Review to follow.
“[A] piquant paean to the Brontë sisters.” (The New York Times Book Review)
"An enigmatic father’s legacy sets the scene for gothic intrigue involving the last descendant of the Bronte sisters in Catherine Lowell’s irresistibly clever, Oxford debut, The Madwoman Upstairs." (Vogue)
“Part mystery, part picaresque, Catherine Lowell’s The Madwoman Upstairs is a smartly conceived first novel.” (Elle)
“A smart, clever and properly Gothic novel....Deftly, Lowell combines a rollicking treasure hunt with a wickedly dark story.” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
“Catherine Lowell’s debut is a smart and funny literary mystery set among the dreaming spires of Oxford University. Lowell’s deft handling of her quirky characters and unpredictable plot twists make The Madwoman Upstairs a charming and memorable read.” --Deborah Harkness, author of the All Souls Trilogy
“THE MADWOMAN UPSTAIRS had me hooked well into the wee hours; this book is absolutely addictive. Set in the most romantic parts of Britain, the story takes us on a clever present-day romp through the literary universe of the enigmatic Brontes and drills deeply into all their dangerous secrets. Catherine Lowell has such a unique, inspired turn of phrase that you’ll find yourself laughing out loud even as she lures you deeper and deeper into this delicious mystery that is destined to become the page-turner of the year.”--Anne Fortier, author of Juliet
“Catherine Lowell’s terrific first novel is a mystery, a love story, and a very dark comedy with the Brontës, of all people, playing a role back there in the shadows. The book is about the traces that literature and our ancestors leave in us, and it is about memory as a token of love.”--Charles Baxter, author of There’s Something I Want You to Do and Feast of Love
"Smart and surprising and fiercely funny. Catherine Lowell is a thrillingly original talent." –Jennifer DuBois, author of Cartwheel
“Lowell crafts a first novel that is as enthralling as it is heartbreaking. Brontë aficionados and fans of Sloane Crosley's The Clasp will love this title.” (starred review) (Library Journal)
“An entertaining and ultimately sweet story.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“A thriller tailor-made for English majors… Lowell is an intelligent writer who bears watching.” (Booklist)
“Lowell has hit it out of the ballpark with this novel.” (RT Book Reviews)
“An enjoyable academic romp that successfully combines romance and intrigue.” (Publishers Weekly)
“An engaging literary mystery filled with juicy speculation about the life of the Brontës—a delightful reminder that how we read fiction matters." (Stanford Magazine)
About the Author
Catherine Lowell received her BA in English from Stanford University, and currently lives in New York City. The Madwoman Upstairs is her first novel.