Search for books
The Madwoman Upstairs: A Novel (Paperback)
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—“an enjoyable academic romp that successfully combines romance and intrigue” (Publishers Weekly)—the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary treasure hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using only the clues her father left behind and the Brontës’ own novels.
Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. Since her eccentric 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 Brontë family—a hidden fortune never revealed to anyone outside of the family, but endlessly speculated about by Brontë 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 the 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 decoding the clues hidden within the Brontës’ own works.
A fast-paced adventure from start to finish, The Madwoman Upstairs is a smart and original novel and a moving exploration of what happens when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.
About the Author
Catherine Lowell received her BA in English from Stanford University, and currently lives in New York City. The Madwoman Upstairs is her first novel.
“[A] piquant paean to the Brontë sisters.”
— The New York Times Book Review
"An enigmatic father’s legacy sets the scene for gothic intrigue involving the last descendant of the Bronte sisters in Catherine Lowell’s irresistibly clever, Oxford debut, The Madwoman Upstairs."
“Part mystery, part picaresque, Catherine Lowell’s The Madwoman Upstairs is a smartly conceived first novel.”
“A smart, clever and properly Gothic novel....Deftly, Lowell combines a rollicking treasure hunt with a wickedly dark story.”
— Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Catherine Lowell’s debut is a smart and funny literary mystery set among the dreaming spires of Oxford University. Lowell’s deft handling of her quirky characters and unpredictable plot twists make The Madwoman Upstairs a charming and memorable read.” --Deborah Harkness, author of the All Souls Trilogy
“THE MADWOMAN UPSTAIRS had me hooked well into the wee hours; this book is absolutely addictive. Set in the most romantic parts of Britain, the story takes us on a clever present-day romp through the literary universe of the enigmatic Brontes and drills deeply into all their dangerous secrets. Catherine Lowell has such a unique, inspired turn of phrase that you’ll find yourself laughing out loud even as she lures you deeper and deeper into this delicious mystery that is destined to become the page-turner of the year.”--Anne Fortier, author of Juliet
“Catherine Lowell’s terrific first novel is a mystery, a love story, and a very dark comedy with the Brontës, of all people, playing a role back there in the shadows. The book is about the traces that literature and our ancestors leave in us, and it is about memory as a token of love.”--Charles Baxter, author of There’s Something I Want You to Do and Feast of Love
"Smart and surprising and fiercely funny. Catherine Lowell is a thrillingly original talent." –Jennifer DuBois, author of Cartwheel
“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.” (starred review)
— Library Journal
“An entertaining and ultimately sweet story.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“A thriller tailor-made for English majors… Lowell is an intelligent writer who bears watching.”
“Lowell has hit it out of the ballpark with this novel.”
— RT Book Reviews
“An enjoyable academic romp that successfully combines romance and intrigue.”
— Publishers Weekly
“An engaging literary mystery filled with juicy speculation about the life of the Brontës—a delightful reminder that how we read fiction matters."
— Stanford Magazine