The Madwoman Upstairs (NetGalley)
Simon & Schuster
Reading teaches you courage. The author is trying to convince you something fake is real. It’s a ridiculous request, and it questions the sanity of the reader. The extent to which you believe the author depends on how willing you are to jump in headfirst.
Samantha Whipple arrives at Oxford University and finds the room she’s been assigned is an odd one: known as “The Tower”, it is five flights up, cold and damp with peeling walls, and reserved for famous students only. A painting titled The Governess hangs over a boarded up fireplace. The room, in fact, is so noteworthy that it is on the university’s historical tour.
Sam’s claim to fame–and the reason she’s followed her father’s footsteps to study literature Oxford–is that she is the last living relative of the Bronte family. The Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontes. Sam’s father, an author himself, nearly drove himself mad seeking to understand the lives of his relatives … and their famous works. Now, it seems, Sam is on the same path–trying to find meaning in every turn of the phrase and obscure biographical event. She is very much in danger of becoming the madwoman upstairs herself.
Her tutor, Professor J. Timothy Orville III will have none of it and tries to steer Sam to approach literature with more academic rigor. And she, in turn, will have none of that! (She does, however, fall in love with him along the way.)
Oddly, this is the second novel about a modern girl searching for the Brontes that I’ve read in the past few months–but God bless the interwebs because now it makes perfect sense. The 200th anniversary of Charlotte’s birth is 2016. The novel might be more fun for those of us who are fans of the Brontes because the references fly fast and thick. (While I’ve read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, some of the more arcane references to the other novels were lost on me.)
Other than the Bronte references, it’s a light and breezy read–and Jane and Kathy fan girls will not be disappointed in this novel addition to Bronte lore.