The madwoman upstairs A novel

Catherine Lowell, 1989-

Book - 2016

"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"--

Saved in:

1st Floor Show me where

FICTION/Lowell Catherin
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
1st Floor FICTION/Lowell Catherin Checked In
Suspense fiction
New York : Touchstone 2016.
Main Author
Catherine Lowell, 1989- (-)
First Touchstone hardcover edition
Physical Description
337 pages ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

Samantha Whipple, the American heroine who narrates this piquant paean to the Bronte sisters, is the last living descendant of the family, through her father's line. Arriving in Oxford to study English literature, she's also prompted to track down a rumored inheritance: a collection of novels, diaries, paintings and other "Bronte treasure" that may have been left to her by her father, Tristan Whipple, an esteemed scholar who "spent his entire life trying to deconstruct" the writings of his famous forebears. His annotated copies of "Jane Eyre," "Wuthering Heights" and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" may hold the clues to finding the treasure. Mysteriously, some of these books begin turning up at the door of Samantha's Oxford lodgings, sending her on a hunt filled with Gothic twists and leading her - and the reader - down pathways strewn with Bronte arcana. If Samantha can unearth a formerly unknown diary by Anne Bronte called, quite significantly, "The Warnings of Experience," she may gain a precious historical artifact. But eventually she comes to the realization that "Anne Bronte's life doesn't give meaning to this diary; the Bronte novels give meaning to this diary. The fiction is more real than the reality." And it's this aha moment that may propel her into the arms of her very own Rochester.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [February 7, 2016]
Review by Booklist Review

Set in Oxford, with an exceptionally literary protagonist (the last remaining descendant of the Brontë family), The Madwoman Upstairs is a thriller tailor-made for English majors. Trained by her eccentric, Brontë-scholar father, who died tragically in a fire, Samantha Whipple, caustic, bright, and determined, begins college at Oxford, only to receive her father's will and find it requires her to go on a treasure hunt if she is to claim her inheritance. Mysteries abound when books from her father's library that should have been destroyed in the fire start appearing in her room, and she comes face-to-face with her father's nemesis, Sir John Booker. Approaching madness, Samantha looks to the Brontës for clues. Unfortunately, the novel's various plot strands, all promising tantalizing mysteries, fail to come together in a convincing manner. Still, the Brontë premise alone will draw readers, and Lowell shows real skill in crafting academic banter and portraying ivory-tower politics. A forbidden professor-student romance adds appeal as well. This isn't the strongest of debuts, but Lowell is an intelligent writer who bears watching.--Grant, Sarah Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Since enrolling at Oxford's Old College, -Samantha Whipple, the last of the Brontës, has been the center of a storm of speculation. The rumor that her family is hoarding a treasure trove of Brontë artifacts has long plagued her. Samantha dismisses this "estate" she's never seen, until her late father's possessions, which all burned in the fire that took his life, inexplicably reappear. Reluctantly aided by her maddeningly handsome and difficult professor, Samantha sets out on the grandest of scavenger hunts, deciphering the Brontë sisters' writing to locate her mysterious inheritance. Samantha's journey through sorrow and even a little obsessive madness, coupled with the reality of the love story she gets wrapped up in, are stunningly representative of a young woman's path to happiness and peace. Professor James Orville is the perfect Brontë leading man, as complex and passionate as his student. A supporting cast of dark figures enhances the experience. VERDICT 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.-Kristen Droesch, Library Journal © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by School Library Journal Review

In this debut novel, Samantha Whipple is the last surviving descendant of the Brontë family. Her father, who died when she was 15, was obsessed with his ancestors, and now Samantha is at Oxford, hoping that studying the Brontës will lead her to a rumored family legacy. She lives in a 14th-century tower room (included on public tours of the campus) that was once used to quarantine plague victims, and it contains a painting called The Governess. Samantha argues about authorial intent with her tutor, James Timothy Orville III, who seems disinclined to discuss the Brontës with her and instead assigns her to read Browning, Pope, and The Old College Book of Disciplinary Procedures. Meanwhile, volumes of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey start showing up on Samantha's doorstep-and not just any copies but Samantha's father's personal possessions, books that she thought were destroyed in the fire that killed her father. Lowell's dry wit and her ability to combine academic discussion with mystery, romance, and elements of Gothic literature make this a sure-fire hit for teens who like smart and funny books. VERDICT Fans of the Brontë sisters will devour this adaptation.-Sarah Flowers, formerly of Santa Clara County Library, CA © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A college student hunts for a lost Bront artifact in this debut novel with academic overtones. Samantha Whipple, the last of the Bronts, has at last come into her inheritance. Her beloved father, Tristan, was descended from a cousin of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne's. Tristan died in a fire when Samantha was 15; a year before his death he told Sam she would someday inherit "The Warnings of Experience." Is it a lost Bront manuscript? A painting? A philosophy? A joke? Now a prickly first-year student at Oxford, Sam meets a banker to receive her legacy, but the shoebox she's given contains nothing but a bookmark, the first clue in a treasure hunt. The quest takes her on a gentle jaunt through the major Bront novels, highlights of critical theory, and Yorkshire in a storm. It makes for pleasant enough readingLowell has an agreeably sarcastic style and a way with similesbut poor estate planning. If you're bothering to give a banker a shoebox, why not put the MacGuffin itself inside? Hiding the object out in the world makes no legal or practical sense. None of the usual explanations for fictional treasure hunts apply: it's not as if rival heirs or supernatural forces are racing to get the thing first, and when Sam does eventually find it, she has no legal evidence that it belongs to her (not that Lowell seems to notice). Sam explains her father's puzzling behavior by appealing to pedagogy: "He was trying to teach me the right way to read." Also trying to teach her the right way to read is her professor, the handsome, brooding James Timothy Orville III, who insults her in private tutoring sessions; readers familiar with Jane Eyre will quickly see where that relationship is heading. Refreshingly, though, the novel draws its references most frequently from the work of the youngest, least interesting, and therefore least overexposed Bront sister, Anne. This is an entertaining and ultimately sweet story, but it's best if you don't think about it too hard. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.