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The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
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The Madwoman Upstairs

by Catherine Lowell

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3612848,287 (3.72)47
"A debut novel about the last remaining descendant of the Brontës who discovers that her recently deceased father has left her a treasure hunt that may lead to the long-rumored secret literary estate"--

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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
I totally unexpectedly really, really enjoyed The Madwoman Upstairs.

There’s a couple things immediately that should have turned me off this novel. First of all, the romance. I am never interested in a student/teacher sort of tryst. Not my cup of tea. Secondly, there’s all the focus on the Bronte sisters. I don’t talk about it a lot, but I actually despised reading Jane Eyre… to the point where I haven’t touched it or anything like it since. Disliking Jane Eyre led me to skipping Wuthering Heights, and also all the Austen novels.

So how in the world did The Madwoman Upstairs end up on my TBR? And me ending up liking it? Mysteries abound.

This book is about Samantha Whipple – last living descendant of the Brontes – and her search for whatever legacy her father may have left her. She’s a first year student at Oxford, studying English and Literature… which of course she is rubbish at. Samantha has that sort of stereotypical American snark. She makes a lot of bad jokes that nobody gets and definitely nobody finds funny, so, immediately, I related to her. I didn’t actually find her a particularly likable protagonist, but I did find her to be an interesting one. Sam’s one of those people who sees the irrationality in things, but often does them anyway, constantly scolding her bad choices… I don’t see a lot of characters like that, but I really enjoy reading about them. I always enjoy reading protagonists with an inner monologue, the kinds that are in their head a lot.

One of the things that pulled me into this book was the promise of a scavenger hunt – I love those sorts of historical treasure hunts. Yes, I know National Treasure is a bit awful, but I am so in for that kind of story. This was what The Madwoman Upstairs promised, and it ultimately delivered. That said… it delivered very slowly, and sometimes got distracted, and the ultimate ending was a bit underwhelming. It became quickly apparent to me that Lowell wanted this book to be about the love story and Samantha’s journey, not the mystery, so that let me down.

What saved this book, for me, was the literary analysis. I loved Samantha’s tutorials. I loved listening to the different perspectives to the Bronte novels… to the point where I actually put a couple on my TBR. I know, dear readers! Is this the same person who vowed eternal loathing towards Jane Eyre at the beginning of this review? Samantha’s literal interpretations of these classic novels are fascinating.

At the end of the day, I rolled my eyes at the “romance” and devoured the historical content. I couldn’t put this book down because I knew, I knew, if I could just get through the drivel about Orville’s handsome cheekbones or whatever, I would be rewarded with a mystery unveiled. The Madwoman Upstairs wasn’t a perfect book by any means, but it was interesting enough that I’d read it again, and that I’d watch out for anything else Catherine Lowell publishes.

Also, it got Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall on my TBR, and that alone is a small miracle.

And also, because I feel I must scream it somewhere, I totally believe her ending is unreliable. ( )
  Morteana | Nov 9, 2019 |
And here comes the "real review" or technically speaking me trying to write something that isn't 100% gushing over how much I love the book and failing completely...

Samantha Whipple is a bright young girl whose loss of her father a couple of years ago still pains her a lot. She is however not an orphan, her mother lives in Paris. But Samantha has always had a closer relationship with her father than her mother. So living without him is tough for her. Especially since they also shared another thing in common. They are both descendants of the Brontë family. And, now she is the last one. Now she has enrolled in Oxford to study and it's at Oxford her father's last will and testament will be carried out. If she just could piece together all the clues...

This book is so freaking good that I want to go out and buy a hardcover of it because I want to hug it and hugging my Ipad is just not the same thing (It's a bit too metallic and can be a bit cold to hug). Loved it from page 1 to the last page.

The sentence above is what I wrote after I finished the book (well a cleaned the sentence up a bit since I used a bad word instead of freaking) and it pretty much summons up my feelings towards the book. I have read many great books this year, but this one, oh this one is like a delicious pie that just gets better the more you eat it. And, the best thing is that you don't have to feel stuffed and no weight gain. In short, this is a book that makes one happy, at least, it left me happy. I just totally adore the book. And, I haven't even read all Brontë books, just Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights, and I even don't like Jane Eyre. But, that doesn't matter because the book is so well-written. Also, you really don't need any previous knowledge of the books before you read the book, sure they are discussed in The Madwoman Upstairs, but not in a way that makes you feel lost.

Samantha Whipple is without a doubt one of the greatest characters ever created. She's incredibly witty and I read through this book chuckling and smiling like a lunatic. This is the kind of book that has an amazingly good storyline, fantastic characters, and awesome dialogue. Her banter with Orville her Oxford tutor are especially very good. And, speaking of Orville, he is such a great, great man. I don't want to give away the plot, but the mystery of her father's testament together with her "relationship" with Orville makes this book fantastic!

I loved this book. It's worth thousands of stars. Read it!

I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review.

****************

This book is so fucking good that I want to go out and buy a hardcover of it because I want to hug it and hugging my Ipad is just not the same thing (It's a bit too metallic and can be a bit cold to hug). Loved it from page 1 to the last page and now I don't know what to do with myself...



This book turned out to be a freaking love story and I loved it! And, I'm just usually that fond of romantic books, but I all through this book I just wanted the main characters to hook up...



Will try to write a review when I have calmed down...



Read this review and others on A Bookaholic Swede ( )
  MaraBlaise | May 19, 2019 |
It's been a long, long time since I loved reading a book as much as I did this one. I had to slow myself down because while the plot was engrossing and I wanted to skip ahead to find out the conclusions to the mysteries and Samantha's story, I also appreciated how smart the writing was. Witty banter (perhaps my favorite part about the main character, who's not afraid to dish out her quick and intelligent snark to her professors), discussions on the nature of literary analysis, and engagement with the Bronte novels and lives - this is a quick read, but also one that is thoughtful and engages the reader's mind. Its nods to classic novels (especially "Rebecca" and, of course, "Jane Eyre" and the rest of the Bronte canon) play with readers' expectations and understanding of the main character as she deals with grief, family and relationship drama, and her first year of college. Can we trust Samantha Whipple as a narrator as she navigates contemporary life with all the pathos of a gothic heroine? This novel is both modern and rooted in the nineteenth-century Romantic, a combination that Catherine Lowell is able to pull off to great effect. ( )
  SusieBookworm | Jan 17, 2019 |

Thank you to Touchstone Book and Edelweiss for granting me access to this Advance Review Copy of "The Madwoman Upstairs."

Could I be the only person reading about the Brontë's last (fictional) descendant to have never read a book by any Brontë? I'll never know, but I suspect it is possible.

I devoured this book in a twenty-four hour period. It had just about everything I love in a book -- intrigue, literary mystery, romance, history and a puzzle. I enjoyed learning about Oxford, the Brontë family and imagining myself in the drafty tower.

The only thing I wish were different -- and I'll try not to spoil anything -- is when our heroine does or does not find or not find that which she has been seeking. Kind of anti-climactic!

But I loved it. Read this book! ( )
  LMJenkins | Nov 28, 2018 |
This was a cute story, but ultimately unsatisfying. There's a lot in this book that doesn't hold up to scrutiny, to the point that I was taking it as a madcap sort of book in the fashion of Jasper Fforde at first, but it doesn't really follow through on that vein, so we're left to believe that Samantha really would be left in an unheated attic room open to public tours and her relation to the Brontes would really make her an object of general interest. The less said about the romance the better - it's tacked on, and would have been far more powerful if the ending had subverted the whole "reader, I married him" cliche. There's an interesting point here about the invented life of historical figures and whether the intention of the author is more important than what the reader brings to a text, but I can't say that I really enjoyed the experience of reading this book. ( )
  duchessjlh | Nov 21, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
"This is an entertaining and ultimately sweet story, but it’s best if you don’t think about it too hard."
added by ablachly | editKirkus Reviews (Mar 1, 2016)
 
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.
 
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To my beautiful parents
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The night I arrived at Oxford, I learned that my dorm room was built in 1361 and had originally been used to quarantine victims of the plague.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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