The Madwoman Upstairs

So, I’m a horrible English major apparently.  It took me until my 30’s to read any of the Bronte novels.  I finally read Charlotte Bronte “Jane Eyre” a few years ago, and was not too excited about it.  To me, the book was strongest in the early stages and then kind of went off the rails towards the end.  But I get it.  It’s a classic.

Then, this past year I read Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”.   I hated this book. HATED IT.  It was right up there with “Gone Girl” for me.  (A book that I actually threw across the room when I finished reading it).  I don’t like unsatisfying books, and both of these novels just felt wrong to me.  I thought “Wuthering Heights” was supposed to be this grand romance, but I did not see it.  I just saw abuse and control.  Not something I associate with romantic feelings.

Which leads me to a book that I recently finished,


The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

The novel follows a young woman, Samantha Whipple, who is a direct descendant of Patrick Bronte (the Bronte sisters father).  The mystery of the book centers on a mysterious inheritance of the Bronte family that was supposedly passed down to Samantha from her father after his recent death.  She attends Oxford to study literature, and meets several characters with a deep interest in the Bronte family and legacy.  This includes her father’s “nemesis”, her father’s former mistress, the local school newspaper, and even her own grad school tutor.  For those that don’t know (and don’t mind being spoiled), the title is a play on one of the characters from “Jane Eyre”.   SPOILER ALERT—–in the novel, the Madwoman was Rochester’s wife who has been locked upstairs for almost the entirety of their marriage.

Parallel to this, Samantha is placed in a tower for her living situation whilst at Oxford which does not help her mental state much.  Following clues left for her by her father, clues in the Bronte sisters books, and help from her tutor, she hopes to find the truth behind her legacy.  Part mystery novel, part treasure hunt, this book was almost impossible to put down.  For English majors who love the idea that classic novels hold clues into modern life, this book is greatly enjoyable.

So…..even though I’m not a HUGE Bronte fan, this book puts a new spin on the novels and the lives of the sisters.  It is leading me to read more about the Bronte sisters, including a new book about Charlotte Bronte recently out.  But it’ll definitely be a library check out.


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