The Madwoman Upstairs


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Picture your favorite ice cream sundae (or sandwich, honestly I could do both). Nuts, hot sauce, a cherry? Or like those fro-yo places where you can cover your ice cream with fucking breakfast cereal and full size peanut butter cups if you want. Colorful and multi-flavored, it has everything you want in a sundae (or sandwich, god I want a good club sandwich right now).

Oh readers, this book has everything. It is the ice cream sundae/club sandwich of books. The last time I loved a book this much was when I finished Kitchens of the Great Midwest. Our protagonist deals with unwanted fame, grief, learning to navigate college, falling in love, learning to stand up for herself, fear, a cool scavenger hunt, and reconciliation. There was one page where I had to put the book down because I was so surprised and also laughing so hard that my husband came in to make sure I was okay.

I must admit though that it was a slow start. Samantha Whipple is the last remaining Bronte, meaning that the first few chapters are about Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and ZZZzzzzzzzzzzz ugh. I love books, but I have to really dedicate myself to slogging through the classics, and for some reason I never got to the Brontes. I have never read a lot of the novels from that time. So at first I was like, oh jesus, this author is going to try to back-door teach me about/make me appreciate these novels. But then magic happens and the books are just the vanilla ice cream/bread that holds this magnificent delight together.

Her father dies making her the last known Bronte, she gets placed in a weird tower room in her first year at Oxford because the regular dorms are full and our adventure begins. You will love her professor. James Orville III is a fast, witty, dry match for Samantha’s lost, sassy, grieving mouth. Her father is dead and after hearing her will Samantha is headed on a scavenger hunt to find “The Warnings of Experience,” which is supposedly her inheritance. She has a nemesis, a professor that is trying to find the “vast Bronte estate” and insists that she is hiding it from the (academic) world. And there is a ghost who delivers her father’s books to her one at a time, with clues as to where to search for the inheritance.

This books starts slow but opens petal by petal into one of the most complex, beautiful, fun, interesting, suspenseful books I’ve read in a very long time. Catherine Lowell is so amazing at keeping secrets, and things are only revealed to you when she absolutely means them to be. As I’ve mentioned before I am very alert for patterns and solutions in books and that tendency often ruins them for me, and I was legitimately surprised several times in this book. And it takes about two thirds of the book to get one of the resolutions you’ll be wanting, and it’s sooooo satisfying. 😀

Please read this book. Please enjoy it as much as I did. I plan to make this a book that I own, not just borrow. I have to read it again and again.


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  1. I have to know, don’t you think the epilogue is too neat and tidy? Recall how Samantha said, when he was leaving, that she’d have to become a writer so she could give it the ending she wants, and then that epilogue is exactly everything she wants. I’ve searched online for any reviews that discuss this and I can’t find a one, so I’m asking you- what do you think?


    • What a fantastic question. To me it felt lazy, I almost wished that it hadn’t been there at all so it could have been left to my imagination. The build up to the love story was so satisfying I didn’t mind so much initially, but now that you have it on my mind again, a few more pages wouldn’t have killed her? Ultimately I think the book itself was so good that I’m willing to forgive the epilogue, but I think you are absolutely right that it could have been more. Also I would have gladly read a second book!


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