The Madwoman Upstairs (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

This smart and very funny lark through the halls of Oxford is a charming debut by a promising new writer! Samantha Whipple, a fictional descendent of the sisters Bronte, has come to Old College at Oxford to research her progenitors and solve a puzzle left by her enigmatic father. With the help of the Brontes’ curator and her very charming don, Samantha plumbs the depths of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, et al and uncovers a remarkable legacy. English majors take note! This is a literary mystery wrapped in a gothic scavenger hunt, enfolded in a romantic comedy! What a hoot!

— From Susan

March 2016 Indie Next List

“The Madwoman Upstairs is both a reference to the insane wife of Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre and to Samantha Whipple, who is the last remaining descendant of the Bronte sisters. This exciting literary debut is in part a study of literature, specifically the works of the Bronte sisters, and in part an exploration of the mystery of their legacy. Samantha cannot escape her past with their work, the world's interest in her inheritance of previously undiscovered family treasures, and the current puzzle of artifacts mysteriously appearing in her room that may or may not answer some of her questions. For mystery and Bronte fans alike, this is a delightful romp by very clever author to watch.”
— Terry Gilman (W), Mysterious Galaxy Books, San Diego, CA


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.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781501124211
ISBN-10: 1501124218
Publisher: Touchstone Books
Publication Date: March 1st, 2016
Pages: 352
Language: English