The Madwoman Upstairs – Catherine Lowell

Samantha Wipple is related to the Brontes in fact she is the last surviving descendant, after her father tragically dies in a fire.

But from what her father has told her, is Samantha any nearer to understanding her family legacy and the mystery and interest that surrounds her. According to everyone but Samantha apparently she is keeping something secret about the Brontes which could in fact change the way the whole world views these greatest pieces of literature.

She knows there is something, but she does not know what.

After being fed some works of literature as a child, Samantha chooses to study at Oxford University and study English Literature. However it seems that there other forces at work.

Her accommodation is in a windowless tower high up and away from everyone else. She has to share it with a painting called The Governess, which brings with it its own ghosts. Sharing all of this with the regular tour groups which pass by this infamous room.

Add to this is the arrival of Bronte’s works in the form of her father’s books. Which appear at intervals are supposed to point Samantha in the direction of the legacy that was left behind. It adds to confuse and frighten Samantha as she reaches the truth that she had been staring at.

This book is for those who are fans of gothic literature, the author has taken all the elements of the three novels, Jane Eyre, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Wuthering Heights and included them in this novel in a way where Samantha and us as readers are stripping back the stories and the women who wrote them and reconfiguring our view of them.

At times I found this book too scholarly, I was not enjoying it because it felt like the studying that Samantha was having to do. However I carried on reading, because I was caught up in the mystery and I wanted to see it to its conclusion.

I felt nothing for Samantha, she seemed to handle everything badly and never learnt from her actions. She was frustrating for me as a character and did not seem to develop, her wit was her downfall although her responses to some questions did raise a smile or two from me. I wonder whether the author has taken parts of all of the female protagonists in Bronte’s novels and amalgamated them into Samantha, I am not sure she got a fully formed character.

I confess to having only read Jane Eyre, and from that book alone, I could see much plot and method reformed for this book. There are elements of the wildness of the moors from Wuthering Heights, but my knowledge of the writing of that book is very sketchy and I have never read Tenant of Wildfell Hall and clearly according to this book, I should not even bother with Agnes Grey.

A book if you want to deconstruct literature and the way that can affect your reading, encased in a mystery of well-known authors and their legacy. Not a book I felt I could escape into, for some reason it screamed too much American, but it was interesting and I will certainly go back and probably reread Jane Eyre.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. 

The Madwoman Upstairs is out now in hardback and ebook. 




2 thoughts on “The Madwoman Upstairs – Catherine Lowell

  1. I liked this book a bit more than you did, I think, although it probably helped that I’ve read most of the Bronte novels (including Anne’s two books, which I enjoyed) so I was interested in the scholarly parts. Samantha is certainly a very frustrating character, though!

  2. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention – it sounds right up my street , as I am a fan of the Bronte novels , and I am looking forward to reading ‘The Madwoman Upstairs’ soon

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