Get Caught Up in Brontë-Mania with the Literary Thriller 'The Madwoman Upstairs'

Get Caught Up in Brontë-Mania with the Literary Thriller 'The Madwoman Upstairs'

Thursday, 26 March, 2020

The right book can instantly transport you to anywhere — and anytime — in the world. Every Thursday, we recommend one of our favorite books with a strong sense of place so you can see the sights, meet remarkable people, go on exciting adventures, and feel big feelings. Bonus: You don't even have to put on pants.

This post is part of our 'Weekend Getaway' series.


This weekend, we recommend a (bookish) getaway to Oxford University with a feisty heroine who has a secret: She’s the only remaining descendent of literary superstars, the Brontë family.

When her father dies, Samantha enrolls at Oxford and soon learns that he’s bequeathed to her a literary mystery that will change everything she thinks she knows about herself and her heritage.

She’s routinely stalked by Brontë über fans, who insist she must have inherited something from the famous sisters. Surely she has a hidden cache of paintings, diaries, letters, and missing novels! Or they assume that at the very least, that world-changing literary talent must be in her blood. Samantha’s sad (and increasingly frustrated) denials fall on deaf ears.

Banished to an isolated dorm room in a tower, her studies are interrupted by strange happenings. Is she being haunted by Brontë spirits? Just what did her dad have in mind with his cryptic clues? Who can she trust? These questions and more distract her from her studies with her demanding, cagey professor. His distractingly good looks and impenetrable motives leave her perplexed.

an ivy-covered wall at oxford university
Photo courtesy of Darya Tryfanava

This tightly-plotted, first-person narrative will transport you directly to the Oxford campus. And it’s an effusive love letter to the Brontës’ work, cheekily weaving gothic and romantic elements into its story to echo Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. (Don’t fret: You don’t need to be familiar with those works to enjoy this story.)

Rich with family secrets, coming-of-age angst, romance with plenty of sparks, and a compelling central mystery, this book is fun, cute, and smart, without being twee or pretentious — and, not for nothing, includes an excellent kissing scene and a pretty surprising and terrible villain.

The curtains were blood-red and drawn. This was not an office. It was a small library, two storeys high, with thin ladders and impractical balconies and an expansive ceiling featuring a gaggle of naked Greeks. It was the sort of library you’d marry a man for. — Catherine Lowell

The Madwoman Upstairs

by Catherine Lowell

This literary thriller (352 pages) was published in March of 2016 by Simon and Schuster. The book takes you to the University of Oxford. Melissa read The Madwoman Upstairs and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it. is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

The Madwoman Upstairs: A Novel


Top image courtesy of JJFarq/Shutterstock.

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