Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

This book has so many elements: literary analysis, unresolved grief, unfulfilled needs, dreams, familial traits, legacies, romantic tension and mysterious inheritance. The main character, Samantha Whipple, is at once flippant, rash, immature and emotionally lost. She is the last descendant the the literary family of the Brontes. She is overshadowed and manipulated by her unstable father, who now deceased, continues to hold sway over her beyond death.

The cover's synopsis sounded mildly intriguing with the story's tie-in to the Bronte family. A few conversations in the beginning are humorously clever but become tiresome as the book goes on. Samantha repeatedly expresses her dislikes of all kinds of things, from authors to beverages. At first the reader may feel sympathy for this awkward, socially inept, insecure young woman. But after awhile, this reader felt like saying, "Oh, stop it!" to both Samantha and the author.

Discussions between Samantha and her Oxford professor regarding literature, the odd personalities of the Bronte siblings, their behaviors and their writings, are convoluted. I began to wonder if some of these conversations might not be some of the author's master's thesis disguised as part of the novel. The professor comes off to me as also manipulative and unstable. Samantha's attraction to him strikes me as emotional transference from her father to this man.

The Madwoman Upstairs is Catherine Lowell's first novel. It is due out in March 2016. The book left me creeped-out. Dark psychological implications of many elements of the story were burdensome. They left me wishing for a fresh breeze and sunshine. Oddly, that's the way Charlotte and Emily Bronte's books made me feel years ago when I read them. By invoking the same reactions, maybe Lowell is better, after all, than I thought.

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