Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Madwoman Upstairs” as Want to Read:
The Madwoman Upstairs
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Madwoman Upstairs

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  5,450 ratings  ·  1,108 reviews
In this smart and enthralling debut in the spirit of The Weird Sisters and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt to find the family's long-rumored secret estate, using clues her eccentric father left behind.

Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes.
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Touchstone
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Madwoman Upstairs, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,450 ratings  ·  1,108 reviews

Sort order
when i first heard about this book, i was delighted and thought, "someone has written a book just for meeeee!"

brontës?? check!
scavenger hint? check!
campus setting? check!

and yet.

the book is fine, but it did not delight. it's being compared to Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and that's a really good comparison, because that was another book i thought i would love like candy, but found to be a little twee; a little cutesie-pie, and not at all living up to its own comparison to The Secret H
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
And here comes the "real review" or technically speaking me trying to write something that isn't 100% gushing over how much I love the book and failing completely...

Samantha Whipple is a bright young girl whose loss of her father a couple of years ago still pains her a lot. She is however not an orphan, her mother lives in Paris. But Samantha has always had a closer relationship with her father than her mother. So living without him is tough for her. Especially since they also shared another thi
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a delightfully witty and intelligent novel, which uses the work of the Bronte’s and a setting steeped in academia to take readers on a clever, literary treasure hunt. Samantha Whipple is the last remaining family member of the Bronte’s – her father, author Tristan Whipple, being descended from one of the siblings of the Bronte patriarch, Patrick. Home schooled by her father, Samantha has grown up with the shadows of the Bronte sisters looming large over her life. Now, with her beloved fa ...more
I read this several months ago and struggled with how to talk about it then. I'm still struggling, but I don't want to forget about it completely. So here I go -- warning, this is long, windy, and harsh. I don't usually get angry at books, but this one did it to me. Was it the excellent blurbs from writers who's craft I respect (Charles Baxter I'm looking at you...)? Was it that I felt misled by the cute cover? Or, am I totally wrong; this is a good book and it's just me?

I don't think it's just
Cait • A Page with a View
Umm this might seriously be one of my new favorite books, no joke. I absolutely LOVED everything about it. Maybe it was the perfect mix of my interests (England, Oxford, the Bronte sisters, academic discussions, etc), but it totally worked for me. Plus, the main character had just the right amount of dry wit that I was laughing the whole way through. I adore this author's writing style and hope she does more in the future!!
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

I won this book in an online book quiz & at first I was really engaged. The fictional Samantha Whipple, last remaining descendant of the Brontë family is quite definitely a three dimensional character - a wisecracking, smart alecky loner. She has arrived to study at Oxford to find that even academics firmly believe she or her late father have Brontë memorabilia hidden away.

Now confession time. I'm not a big Brontë fan. The only one of their novels I have both finished and enjoyed was Jan
(DNF @ 56%) There was every reason for me to love this novel – awkward American narrator, Oxford setting, Brontë connections aplenty, snarky literary criticism – but I got bored with it. Perhaps it was the first-person narration: being stuck in sarcastic Samantha Whipple’s head means none of the other characters feel real; they’re just paper dolls, with Orville a poor excuse for a Mr. Rochester substitute. I did laugh out loud a few times at Samantha’s unorthodox responses to classic literature ...more
Book of Secrets
Jane Eyre ♥ and Wuthering Heights ♥ are two of my favorite novels, so I couldn't pass this one up. THE MADWOMAN UPSTAIRS is about the last living Brontë descendant, and her quest to find the family's missing literary estate - if it actually exists at all.

Samantha Whipple is a new student at Oxford. Soon after her arrival in England, she starts receiving obscure clues to finding the mysterious Brontë inheritance. Samantha was an okay character. She's young and awkward, and tries to compensate wi
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book isn't perfect, but it's perfect for me. It's EVERYTHING I wanted, plus things I didn't even know to ask for. Smart, snarky, funny, surprising, moving. Prepare for some serious love in my next video wrap up.
This was a fun book club read and our members either loved it or thought it was just okay. I think my expectations were just too high. I thought it was slow in parts and I didn't enjoy the main character very much. The Oxford setting was enjoyable and i would be interested in reading her future books.
Erika Robuck
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rarely is a narrative voice so charming, awkward, and hilarious as it is in THE MADWOMAN UPSTAIRS. I laughed out loud through the entire book. Samantha Whipple–Brontë descendant, Oxford student, grieving daughter–is delightfully inept in every possible way. She is all of us at our worst moments, and we root for her and feel for her because of it.

Though it’s hard to imagine, think of this novel as if it were a hilarious and more accessible version of Byatt’s POSSESSION. There is family drama, sch
With apologies to the Brontes - I just can't with this book. How can I be finding a Bronte-themed scavenger hunt academia plot ...simultaneously irritating and a snoozefest? I'm not sure, but I'm jumping ship.
Jasmine Chimento
Mar 16, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Guess I'm one of the few people that really didn't like this book. I found the main character to be snotty and unlikeable. Didn't buy that she would be super paparazzi-style famous just for being a distant descendant of the Brontes. Also, didn't buy the love story deal because they never seemed to have a civil conversation with each other. It bugged me that Samantha seemed to have something she didn't like about every single person she met.
Oh well, to each their own I guess.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: auth-f, 2019-read
A story about many things: books, literary analysis and criticism, a father-daughter relationship, grief over a parent's death, Bronte fandom, Bronte fanfic, and figuring out who you are separate from your family. Plus plenty of sarcastic humour thanks to the irreverent and somewhat dry narration by main character Samantha Whipple, fictitious descendant of the Brontes.
There's a little mystery in this story, but this isn't a murder story. Samantha is at Oxford to learn, and she also is trying to
Megan Lyons
I was really excited to read this book. The idea of a literary scavenger hunt was so much fun. I was expecting a book lovers version of the "Da Vinci Code", or a charming madcap literary ode, like Jasper Fforde's "The Eyre Affair". However, this book was a bit of a mess.

The plot was all over the place, and not that much really happened. The main character was unlikeable, and the romance was strange and underdeveloped. This was perhaps because it was supposed to be an updating of the relationshi
Nadia King
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
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,
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This is the kind of book that gets the cutesy adjectives thrown at it -- quirky, charming, playful, breezy -- and they're all apt. This is a quirky, charming, playful, and breezy read, a kind of chick-lit-y coming-of-age story that did, I confess, occasionally kill me with the snark, but ultimately had me sighing with satisfaction as I closed it.

Our narrator, Samantha Whipple, is that last living descendant of the Brontes, and is newly arrived at Oxford University where she plans to study modern
I have to start this review saying I absolutely loved this book. Sometimes I surprise myself because I think I don't like books that can be tagged as women's fiction, romance or chick-lit, but deep down I love them. And if you add that there's books and a mystery involved, it's so much better, right?

When Samantha Whipple arrives at Oxford to study Literature, she tries to forget she's the last of the Brontë's. Yes, Brontë as in Charlotte, Anne and Emily.
Lonely and a bit awkward, she makes few f
Charlie Lovett
This is tricky book for me to review, because, like my novels, it is about old books and secrets and English literature. Written by an American and set in England, it just has a lot in common with a Charlie Lovett novel, which makes it hard for me to get much distance on it. That said, there were parts I found delightful and charming and characters that flew off the page. I agree with Erika Robuck that the protagonist was a hot mess but, unlike Erika, I was not always charmed by this. Sometimes ...more
Amal Bedhyefi
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fast paced , fun , witty and engaging are what describe this book the best .
I absolutely loved every page of this book solely because it was the perfect mix of my interests : England, Oxford, the Bronte sisters, books and academic discussions .
However ,James and samantha's relationship was poorly developed and uncalled for .They didn't even have a proper civil conversation , he showed no interest whatsoever during the whole book and then he's suddenly in love ? did i miss something ? I don't kno
A fascinating, strangely eerie, but frankly empty modern retelling of "Jane Eyre" where Jane is the last heir of the Bronte's and may have Aspergers, Mr. Rochester has a bad habit of getting a little too friendly with his grad students and the madwoman in the attic is played by more than one character. Unfortunately for all its clever updating the key ingredient that makes "Jane Eyre" the gothic classic it remains to this day, passion, is sorely lacking and very much missed.

Samantha Whipple's fa
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: misc
I thought this sounded a really interesting idea, modern day woman, descended from the Bronte family uncovers secrets from the history of her family. While I didn't dislike it, I didn't really love it either. For about the first half of the book I found it a bit of a struggle as I found the protagonist, Samantha Whipple, rather hard to like. I'm not even sure I liked her that much by the end of the book to be honest.

Samantha has had rather an odd upbringing, which would account for some of her s
Lowell offers a story that delves into classic literature without leaving the reader behind. She gives us enough information to help us understand the underlying messages in the classics Samantha studies, without feeling like we’re drowning under so much regurgitated literature, even if we’re not well versed with the titles.

In fact, a reader who hasn’t read these classics will find themselves inclined to do so. Soon. And a reader who has read some will no doubt find something to add to their to
Heather Webb
Jul 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant! This novel oozed with sarcasm, witty repartee, and a meaty analysis of the Brontes' famed works that had me zipping through it in just a few days. You also get a dash of love story and a touching father-daughter story, all set at Oxford. In short, I loved it. Recommending to every book-loving friend I know!
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
'Are there any leading men in your life?'
'Several, but they're all fictional.'

This book was everything I wanted it to be and more. It made me laugh, tear up and it was so addictive that I couldn't put it down. I sacrificed my sleep for this shit and I regret nothing.

P.S.: Another huge thank you to my friend Maria for buying this for me as a birthday present, ugh you bitch know me so well. <3
One of the best books I've read in a long time...
Alex Andrasik
I received an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss.

I didn't like this book. Sorry. A lot of it struck me as preposterous. This is a world where the fate and scandals of writers, academics, and the descendants of 19th century Romantic authors are somehow front page news, where characters (yes, more than one) go by completely different names than their given ones just to preserve "shocking" revelations later in the narrative, where an important plot point hinges on a character being presumed d
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originally published at http://solittletimeforbooks.blogspot....

I’m just going to come out and say it: The Madwoman Upstairs is my favourite book of 2016 so far. I loved every single word of it.

My love of classics has increased significantly over the years, and after reading Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre last year and then Agnes Grey in January, so has my love for the Brontës. I jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour for this book and I'm so, so glad I did. I went in not knowing ve
Riley Johnson
Mar 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OHMYGOD. Sure, arrogance can be perceived in these pages if it's looked for. Not the first time this criticism has been lobbed at academia. And yes, Lowell rambles a bit. Whatever. I LOVED this book. My English classes were my favorite part of school, because there's nothing like discovering a new lens through which to view something you've seen a thousand times. This book captured everything I love about an academic discussion and threw it together with one of my favorite literary families, som ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The House That Made Me: Writers Reflect on the Places and People That Defined Them
  • The Search for Heinrich Schlögel
  • The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects
  • The Spirit Keepers: The Spirit Series #1
  • Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature
  • Emily's Ghost
  • A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature
  • Aunt Sass: Christmas Stories
  • The Book Hunters of Katpadi: A Bibliomystery
  • Read This!: Handpicked Favorites from America's Indie Bookstores
  • Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights
  • Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives
  • Lies That Comfort and Betray (A Gilded Age Mystery #2)
  • Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life
  • Jane Steele
  • The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe
  • Magnificence
Catherine Lowell received her BA in Creative Writing from Stanford University, and currently lives in New York City. The Madwoman Upstairs is her first novel.
“Are there any leading men in your life?"

"Several, but they're all fictional.”
“I realized that my life of late had consisted of far too much dialogue and not enough exposition. I imagined an angry, bespectacled English teacher slashing his pen through the transcript of my life, wondering how someone could possibly say so much and think so little.” 12 likes
More quotes…