The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell took over my life. I literally could not put it down. Now I have finished it I feel strangely empty as if something is missing. I think this is called a book hang-over.
To sum up in a sentence – think the Brontes, a young American Samantha Whipple studying English Literature at Oxford University and a dark and brooding tutor. Utter perfection for a girl like me, who loves the classics and a bit of modern-day romance.
Lowell’s debut novel follows Samantha, the only living descendant of the Bronte family, on a treasure hunt to find her deceased father’s clues on life, literature and the Brontes. Samantha was home-schooled by her father in Boston and when her beloved father dies in a fire reminiscent of the Brontes, Samantha leaves the US for England and Oxford University.
Samatha’s tutor, James Timothy Orville III, reminds readers of Jane Eyre’s Mr Rochester. He is enigmatic, intelligent and handsome. The novel traces their relationship and keeps the reader guessing with its unpredictable plot twists.
‘Someone left me another book,’ I said. ‘Wuthering Heights.’ I thought I saw a note of alarm cross his expression, but he killed it swiftly.
I nodded. He frowned. A conversation about the Brontes was not one he wanted to have, it seemed. We lingered in a silence that seemed purely decorative. Then he stood up and walked to his bookshelf. I thought he must have forgotten about me, but he returned with an old black book. It was Wuthering Heights.
I looked up at him. ‘Yes, I see you have it too.’
‘At one point, it was my favourite book.’
‘That’s probably why we’ll never be friends.’
There is mystery and intrigue in this novel. There is also suspense, danger and many references to the Brontes with academic undertones. If you loved Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and enjoy modern romance this will be just the right kind of sweet read for you.