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Catherine Lowell Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Madwoman Upstairs (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon

Catherine Lowell
Catherine Lowell was born in California and is a writer of letters, novels, and the occasional limerick. She got her BA in Creative Writing from Stanford University, where her academic interests were inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s observation that there is creative reading as well as creative writing.

Catherine’s passions include hot chocolates and obscure history books.

Growing up, Catherine would write these fractured fairy tales that featured a hungry chipmunk named Francine and these burly princesses.

“The Madwoman Upstairs” owes its existence to Catherine’s fierce love of the Brontes, a horrible bout of insomnia, and the kind hospitality of so many Manhattan coffee shops.

The title of the novel refers to Bertha Mason, the crazed wife whom Mr. Rochester kept hidden up in the attic. It is also a nod to the novel’s brooding protagonist, who resides in a tower room at the University of Oxford.

The idea for the novel first took root while she was in college, while she was attempting to internally justify deciding to study English. She remembers thinking through all of the practical uses of an English degree. Books typically teach extremely valuable yet vague life skills, like empathy. However what are the real world problem solving abilities you can learn from literature? It became a fun thought experiment for her. How would an engineer analyze a novel? Then she went to Oxford for a term, where she had this horrible insomnia. The first chapter was borne out of hours being bored and awake.

She reread her old copies of Bronte novels. She researched the lives of the Brontes at libraries. The original home of the Brontes, the parsonage at Haworth in Yorkshire, is now the Bronte Parsonage Museum with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

Even though she had always loved the Bronte novels, her research left her with a much deeper respect for the authors themselves. They were incredibly brave women that wrote their novels during a time when writing as a woman was a form of social suicide. Her research also showed her this very human portrait of three now larger-than-life writers. Catherine had always loved their books when she was a kid, and became increasingly interested in the underdog, Anne, a bit of whom she believes lives in us all.

“The Madwoman Upstairs” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2016. The final remaining descendant of the Bronte family embarks on a modern day literary scavenger hunt, using just the clues that her eccentric dad left behind, and the Brontes’ own novels.

Samantha Whipple has gotten used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. Since her dad’s untimely death, she’s the presumed heir to this long rumored collection of letters, paintings, and early novel drafts passed down from the Bronte family, this hidden fortune that was never revealed to anybody outside of the family, however endlessly speculated about by Bronte fanatics and scholars. But Samantha has never seen this alleged estate and for all she knows, it is just as fictional as “Wuthering Heights” or “Jane Eyre”. If it did exist, this missing “Vast Bronte Estate”, would belong to Samantha.

However everything changes once Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and some long lost objects from her past start rematerializing in her life, starting with this old novel that her dad annotated. With the help of this handsome yet inscrutable professor, she plunges into this vast literary mystery with this untold family legacy, one that can only get solved by repurposing the tools of literature and decoding the clues hidden inside the Brontes’ own novels.

This is a fast paced adventure from beginning to end for readers that devoured “Special Topics in Calamity Physics”, and is a moving exploration of what happens when the greatest truth is actually fiction.

Catherine delivers a terrific novel that is a love story, a mystery, and a very dark comedy with three Brontes. The novel is snarky, smart, funny, moving, and surprising. Samantha Whipple is incredibly witty and an absolute delight to read a whole story about. She is all of us at our worst moments, and we root for her and feel for her as a result of it. Rarely is there ever a narrative voice that is as awkward, charming, and hilarious as it is in this novel. This is the sort of book which has an amazingly excellent storyline, some incredible characters, and top notch dialogue. Her banter with Orville (her Oxford tutor) are particularly good. Orville is a great guy too.

Readers were hooked on this one well into the wee hours; it’s just that addictive. Set in the most romantic parts of Britain, the story takes us on this clever present day romp through the literary universe of the enigmatic Brontes and it drills deeply into all of their dangerous secrets. Catherine has such a unique and inspired turn of phrase which you will find yourself laughing out loud even while she lures you deeper into the delicious mystery which is destined to become one of the top page turners. But it’s unpredictable plot twists and her deft handling of her quirky characters.

One of the great joys of the novel are the discussions that Samantha has with herself as well as with James about the Bronte canon, especially “Wuthering Heights”, “Jane Eyre”, and surprisingly and delightfully, Anne’s lesser works, novels like “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” and “Agnes Grey”.

Catherine mines these novels as well as her own imagination to build a rather atmospheric plot which has Samantha seeking out clues to the location and meaning of the “Warnings of Experience” and the identification of the perpetrators of some odd goings-on around her campus. She combines a rollicking treasure hunt with this wickedly dark story about what it means to feel alone in the world.

It is her voice of authenticity in all matters Bronte which empowers the novel. She does such a wonderful job evoking the sisters’ writing and lives that you might pick up a dusty copy of “Jane Eyre” up and fall in love with Mr. Rochester all these years later.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Catherine Lowell

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