The Madwoman Upstairs, by Catherine Lowell

The Madwoman UpstairsLately, I have been in a reading funk. I had too many obligation reads and was just not feeling inspired. So, I ignored all of the obligation books and picked up The Madwoman Upstairs, hoping it would help. And it did.

Sam is just beginning her first year at Oxford. She’s trying to keep a low profile, but she can’t help but attract attention as the last living descendant of the Brontës. Yes, those Brontës. Plus, she’s living alone in a tower with a creepy painting. But there are upsides too, her hot and smart tutor, the cute boy named Hans, and a mystery. Her father’s copy of Jane Eyre, thought to have burned in the fire that killed him, suddenly shows up. And Sam has to figure out how to cope with his death and her life.

I quite enjoyed the tropes at work here. Orphaned(ish) girl arrives at school. She, of course, loves to read and is studying English literature. And I loved the play off of the Brontës, of course. The Brontës are both explicitly referenced, discussed, and dissected and implicitly borrowed from. The setting of Oxford is perfect, and the mystery (and the hot tutor) keep me reading all day. I did wish that there were some more sparks between Sam and her tutor. Their tutoring sessions could have been (and I think were meant to be) titillating but were not for me. And some of the plot points bordered on unbelievable. Still, this book was exactly what I needed at the time I read it.

If you like to read about people who love books, the Brontës, and/or English colleges with a little mystery thrown in, I’d say go for it. (In other words, if you liked The Thirteenth Tale, I think you’d enjoy this one.)