Samantha Whipple is the last remaining descendent of the illustrious Bronte family, of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre fame. After losing her father, a brilliant author in his own right, it is up to Samantha to piece together the mysterious family inheritance lurking somewhere in her past - yet the only clues she has at her disposal are the Bronte's own novels.
With the aid of her handsome but inscrutable Oxford tutor, Samantha must repurpose the tools of literature to unearth an untold family legacy, and in the process, finds herself face to face with what may be literature's greatest secret.
The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell is published by Quercus on 3 March 2016. I'm happy to welcome you to my Blog Tour spot for this debut novel.
2016 marks 200 years since the the birth of Charlotte Bronte, she was born on 21 April 1816, there are many bi-centenary celebrations taking place in honour of her and her sisters Emily and Anne.
Catherine Lowell celebrates Charlotte's work in The Madwoman Upstairs and and some of her interpretations of Bronte's classic novels are unusual and thoughtful. She makes some good observations, in amongst the story of modern-day Samantha Whipple and her quest to find out more about her heritage.
I'm not sure about the character of Samantha, she's something of an odd-ball. At times she's incredibly ridiculous, at times I wondered just how she managed to get herself a place at Oxford, and at times I just got annoyed by her. Despite this, there is an interestingly plotted mystery in Samantha's life and it was this that kept my interest.
The Madwoman Upstairs is a mash-up of theme and style. There's the romantic-comedy between Samantha and James, which is tender in places, although their feelings are far more obvious to the reader, than to themselves. There is also a touch of mystery and drama, and the literary observations are there too. Catherine Lowell's writing does make this work, but only just, and I wonder if the story would be better without the romance, but maybe that's just me?
There is a very American feel about The Madwoman Upstairs, which of course should be no surprise as the author is from California. However, this does impact on the story, as Oxford University and the Brontes are the most British of British landmarks, and heroines.
Wit and mystery, a blend of themes and styles. The Madwoman Upstairs is an easy and entertaining read.
Catherine Lowell received her BA from Stanford University, California, and currently lives in New York City.
The Madwoman Upstairs is her first novel.