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The Madwoman Upstairs
by Catherine Lowell


Overview - 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 Bronte family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt, using only the clues her eccentric father left behind, and the Brontes' own novels.  Read more...

 
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More About The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
 
 
 
Overview
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 Bronte family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt, using only the clues her eccentric father left behind, and the Brontes' 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 Bronte family--a hidden fortune never revealed to anyone outside of the family, but endlessly speculated about by Bronte 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 Brontes' 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.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781501124211
  • ISBN-10: 1501124218
  • Publisher: Touchstone Books
  • Publish Date: March 2016
  • Page Count: 352
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Contemporary Women
Books > Fiction > Family Life

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-01-11
  • Reviewer: Staff

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 Brontë family tree. What’s more, someone is frightening Samantha by surreptitiously planting her late father’s copies of Brontë 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 Brontë estate Samantha stands to inherit. Samantha’s maddeningly demanding (and handsome) tutor, James Orville, is no help—he flat-out refuses to discuss the Brontës. Lowell’s debut novel offers some intriguing speculation about Brontë 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 Brontë-philes, however, this is an enjoyable academic romp that successfully combines romance and intrigue, one that benefits from never taking itself too seriously. (Mar.)

 
BookPage Reviews

A Brontë bicentennial

It’s hard to name a novel more beloved than Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Billed as one of the first feminist love stories, it has inspired countless sighs from lovers of literature over the centuries.

April 21, 2016, marks the 200th anniversary of Brontë’s birth, and two timely new releases honor Charlotte and her family’s enduring legacy. Though these two books have very different tones and approaches, their shared affection for the Brontës unites them. 

The setup of Catherine Lowell’s debut novel, The Madwoman Upstairs, is an English major’s fantasy come true. Heroine Samantha Whipple is an awkward bookworm who heads off to Oxford University to read literature—and just happens to be the Brontës’ last living descendent. As she butts heads with her brooding-yet-irresistible tutor, a mysterious package from her deceased father arrives. Suddenly Sam is on a scavenger hunt that promises to lead her to her inheritance: items belonging to the Brontë estate that Sam has always considered nothing but a rumor . . . until now. 

Crammed with myriad allusions to the entire Brontë clan’s canon, Lowell’s novel will appeal not only to Brontë megafans, but also to readers who like a healthy helping of literary criticism alongside their fiction. When Sam isn’t off solving her father’s cryptic clues, she’s arguing with her professor about how to correctly read literature in general—and the Brontës’ works in particular. 

Filled with hyperlexic ripostes and an academic heroine who is the dictionary definition of quirky, this is a story that will please readers of Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele is a very different form of tribute. Just a few pages in, Faye’s Jane utters the line, “Reader, I murdered him,” which tells you exactly the kind of book you are in for. A somewhat satirical riff on Jane Eyre, the novel reimagines Brontë’s iconic heroine with not only a will of iron but also the heart of a hot-blooded killer. This Jane embraces her “wicked” side and isn’t afraid to avenge herself against those who do her wrong. (Watch out, teachers at Lowood.)

Readers worried that Jane Steele is simply a retread of Jane Eyre with more blood and gore, à la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, fear not. Just when you think you know what is coming next, Jane Steele takes things in a completely different direction. Faye is also the author of four acclaimed historical mysteries, and she juxtaposes a textured Victorian setting with more modern (and thus, more ambiguous) morality. Jane Steele is equal parts irreverent and refreshing. It’s also, remarkably, no less of a page-turner than the classic to which it pays homage.

 

This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews