The Madwoman Upstairs, a review

If you’re a fan of the Bronte sisters, you need to read this book.

[end scene]

 

 

But really. More than anything I want to go and read all of the Bronte works, something I have truthfully not done, in order to study them as much as Catherine Lowell, the author of this book, clearly had to.

However, in particular, if you are a fan of Jane Eyre, as I am– you, more than anyone, need to read this. It makes your mind run with ideas and possibilities, all the while following Samantha and her professor through this journey.

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. As the last remaining descendant of the Brontë family, she’s rumored to have inherited a vital, mysterious portion of the Brontë’s literary estate; diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts; a hidden fortune that’s never been shown outside of the family.

But Samantha has never seen this rumored estate, and as far as she knows, it doesn’t exist. She has no interest in acknowledging what the rest of the world has come to find so irresistible; namely, the sudden and untimely death of her eccentric father, or the cryptic estate he has bequeathed to her.

But everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and bits and pieces of her past start mysteriously arriving at her doorstep, beginning with an old novel annotated in her father’s handwriting. As more and more bizarre clues arrive, Samantha soon realizes that her father has left her an elaborate scavenger hunt using the world’s greatest literature. With the aid of a handsome and elusive Oxford professor, Samantha must plunge into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontë’s own writing.

A fast-paced adventure from start to finish, this vibrant and original novel is a moving exploration of what it means when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.

This book took me a little longer to read than my usual speed. One, because I just had a baby, but two because there was so much academia in it and theories that I had to take the time to process it. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t necessarily slow you down– but it makes your mind want to pause and truly think it out.

I loved this book for that. And its characters.

The only downfall, I think, with this book is I had a little trouble connecting with Samantha. It wasn’t that she wasn’t likable or she didn’t have human attributes that made you want to connect, it was that I just had a hard time thinking the way she did as she came across on the page.

Regardless, I wish to get to know the Brontes…and then read this book again. You should, too.

 

jane eyre love

unnamedI recently reread my absolute favorite classic, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. While I never claim to have a favorite book, this is one that I consistently go back to. I confess it has actually been a few years since I reread this treasure. Now, I hope that never happens again.

There is so much to learn from Jane. I first met her in high school, freshman year. I had never read the book before, and only knew it as the slow, dreadful movie that I once attempted to watch with my mom. But once I got to know her, and Mr. Rochester, and Mary, and Diana, and all the others through the written word… there was no going back.

This time I tried to pay attention, to find a way to write in words just what it is that I love about this story so much.

In truth, so many parts of it are terribly sad. The way Jane has been treated by her family, when all she wants is family. The love Mr. Rochester truly did have for Bertha, and then the decay of their relationship. The love Jane has for Mr. Rochester, and how long it takes for them to finally end up together– and the circumstances that make it possible.

I mean, the list can go on, and on, and on.

But what I love most, is that despite all the sadness, Jane ends up with what she truly, deeply, wanted at the end:

Respect, love, and family.

I have two favorite quotes from this book. And while I’m pretty sure these two quotes are the two that are out there the most, I will share them with you anyway.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

I love this one because it is the best concept. Because although Jane wants love, and family, and respect– she is not willing to have her wings clipped for it… because that would defeat the purpose. She would be sacrificing so much, in fact she would be sacrificing self-respect, in order to gain the three things she wants more.

Jane is so self-sufficient, learning from hardships and using them to determine what she will not lose. She is not some frilly girl, as many female characters from that era of literature could seem to be.

She is a strong woman. We can all learn from her.

“Wherever you are is my home. My only home.”

This takes the saying, “Home is where the heart is,” or “There’s no place like home,” to a new level. The proverbial sayings have nothing on this phrase because it brings out the essence of home.

Home is a YOU.

It may not necessarily be a Mr. Rochester, or parents, or siblings… but it is someone, something that sticks out that makes up that feeling where your very core belongs.

Home is not TRULY a place, but a YOU. A feeling, a person, a group of people, a beauty, a faith, a hope, a story…

Jane’s story is one of my homes.

 

If you haven’t read the book, I beg you to do so.

Also, the best film rendition (in my humble opinion) is the one done by BBC/Masterpiece Theatre.