In Catherine Lowell's smart and original debut novel, 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 only the clues her eccentric father left behind and the Brontës' own novels.
Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. Since her father's untimely death, she is the presumed heir to a long-rumored trove of diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts passed down from the Brontë family - a hidden fortune never revealed to anyone outside the family but endlessly speculated on by Brontë scholars and fanatics. Samantha, however, has never seen this alleged estate, and for all she knows, it's just as fictional as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.
Yet everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and long-lost objects from the past begin rematerializing in her life. Her father's distinctive copy of Jane Eyre, which should have perished in the fire that claimed his life, mysteriously appears on Samantha's bed. Annotated in her father's handwriting, the book is the first of many clues in an elaborate scavenger hunt derived from the world's greatest literature. With the help of a handsome but inscrutable professor, Samantha must plunge into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy - one that can be solved only by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontës' own writing.
For listeners who devoured The Weird Sisters and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Madwoman Upstairs is a suspenseful, exhilarating debut by an exciting new talent who offers a moving exploration of what it means when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.
"Koster's impressive emotional range captures Samantha's complex personality. She flawlessly portrays the girl's cheekiness as a cover for embarrassment and insecurity and perfectly captures her other emotions... Using an expressive, relaxed style, Koster connects listeners to the fun of Samantha's adventures." (AudioFile)
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How dead relatives can ruin your life
Yes, with a few caveats. The story is about a fresh-mouthed 20-year old who is more like a 16- year old. She is supposed to be very smart but she does a lot of immature things. I listened to the entire audio so that says something positive. The best parts of the story will happen the future and had happened in the past. Samantha (Sam) the narrator, is the last living relative of the Bronte sister, which seems to be a burden. Sam is a first year at Oxford, contending with a university rule book that is at least 300 years and a studly tutor who wacks the desk with a ruler to make a point. I kept hoping a few ghosts would show up, but none seemed to be around. I don't want to discourage you from listening to it--it is a good story and has mixed humor--some very funny. And it kept me interested during my long commute, which means it was entertaining.
- K. Gunderson