The Madwoman Upstairs: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Samantha Whipple did not attend school until she was a teenager; instead she was homeschooled by her brilliant father until his death.  It was an adjustment being around other kids her age, she lacked their social intuition.  Enrolled in Oxford, there is a bit of baggage associated with her name.  Samantha is the last surviving relative of the Brontes.  Rumor has it she possesses an important part of their estate.  If it exists, Samantha does not know what it is or where to find it.  As the term opens, she faces challenges.  Her tutor is dead gorgeous and stubborn about his views on literature.  Then books from her father’s library, books that should have been destroyed in a tragic fire, start showing up with annotations in her father’s handwriting.  Spooky.  Knowing her father’s penchant for scavenger hunts, Samantha starts investigating the clues and embarking on a treasure hunt involving some of the world’s greatest literature. Her life may never be the same.

— Deon Stonehouse

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 Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt, using only the clues her eccentric father left behind, and the Brontës’ 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 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 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 Brontës’ 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.

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.

Praise For…

“[A] piquant paean to the Brontë sisters.”

"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.”

"For those who like their Bronte with a side of wry, turn to the hilarious The Madwoman Upstairs... Sam’s self-conscious quips are LOL hilarious and do Ms. Bronte proud."

“A smart, clever and properly Gothic novel....Deftly, Lowell combines a rollicking treasure hunt with a wickedly dark story.”

“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)

“An entertaining and ultimately sweet story.”

“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.”

“An enjoyable academic romp that successfully combines romance and intrigue.”

“An engaging literary mystery filled with juicy speculation about the life of the Brontës—a delightful reminder that how we read fiction matters."
Product Details
ISBN: 9781501124211
ISBN-10: 1501124218
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication Date: March 1st, 2016
Pages: 352
Language: English