Book Review: The Madwoman Upstairs – Catherine Lowell

Reviewed by Dennis Menard

The Madwoman Upstairs - Catherine LowellThis book inspires me to the heights of hating myself my mother sees to. However, unlike my mother, who’d conceived me as a teen in the back seat of an aged Edsel, HAD to marry (my father) the wrong man, and far, FAR too often voiced this regret the rest of her life, this book frustrates me for more positive reasons. This book makes me hate myself that I did not heed the adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover” to heart.

And so, I did not at first see potential merit in The Madwoman Upstairs and devour it immediately. No, I let the book sit and gather dust a good few months before picking it up and starting it. I did so with much pleasure.

The book is told in first person by an American, Samantha Whipple. She is the last heir of the Bronte family. Per the stipulations in her late father’s will, Samantha must enroll in Oxford University. Soon after her arrival bits and pieces of her past begin to appear at her doorstep.  They lead her into a treasure hunt for the missing pieces of her own past as well as her famous family’s.

For those readers who seem to need such a thing, there IS a romantic interest in the book’s proceedings. But for those of you like me, a Bostonian at heart who has no wish (far less through prudery than for the fact a subtle, imagined scene is FAR more vividly pleasing and erotic than a play-by-play description of the actual coitus) to read through a lover’s tryst no matter HOW soft-focused, need not worry. The “love interest” is not in the least (as far too often) “tacked on” and neither drives the book, nor detracts its well-laid plot.

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell abounds with critical observational details. Most of these, meant to seem frightened and shy, come off a tad more bitchy. But these observations are no less wonderfully observed for the extra ‘bite.”  I loved this book and read it in one sitting!

Dennis MenardDennis Menard is an artist. You can find his work at

An ebook of The Madwoman Upstairs can be found here.