The Madwoman Upstairs
The Madwoman Upstairs: a novel of the last Bronte by Catherine Lowell. New York: Touchstone, 2016. 337 pages. Reading Group Guide. *****
Samantha Whipple is the last remaining descendant of the Bronte family and the Bronte estate. The only problem is that her dad died in a house fire when she was 15 and has left her riddles to find the estate if it even exits. When her father's books start to show up in her Oxford tower college room, Samantha doesn't understand how the books survived the fire and who is leaving them for her. With the help of her attractive college professor, Samantha searches for answers about her Bronte relatives and her father.
The complexity of the relationship between Samantha and her mother and father adds to the depth of the story. Fans of the Brontes will relish the personal descriptions of their family, their personalities, and the time in which they lived. Lowell's suggested theories about the relationships between the sisters and Branwell in discussions between Samantha and her professor will make this a great companion to their books. I had the opportunity to walk the moors at Haworth a few years ago and Lowell aptly described the town and brought it all back to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this refreshing plot and appreciate what an ambitious endeavor it is as a first novel. You do not have to have read the Bronte books in order to enjoy the story, but it helps. I have not read Agnes Gray by Anne Bronte (writing under the pen name of Acton Bell) and will add it to my list. I look forward to more from Lowell.
I received a copy for a review.
Catherine Lowell received her BA in English from Stanford University, and currently lives in New York City. The Madwoman Upstairs is her first novel.
For more information on the Brontes visit https://www.bronte.org.uk/the-brontes-and-haworth/family-history
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