The Book Mark

Books that make the grade.

Tag Archives: Jane Eyre

The Madwoman Upstairs



The Madwoman Upstairs (B) by Catherine Lowell appealed to me primarily because some of my favorite authors were the Brontes. What I read was honestly the most “quirky” novel ever. Based on the supposition that the main character, Samantha Whipple is a direct descendant of the Brontes, Lowell assumes knowledge of behind the scenes events of their lives.

Samantha is now attending Oxford University where she hopes to continue the education that her late father began for her. His obsession with the Bronte sisters is now her obsession mainly because it has something to do with her “inheritance”. As a child gifts from her father were always given in form of a treasure hunt. Following the clues would lead to a Christmas present, etc. Obviously, her inheritance is given in the same manner. Only now she is an adult and attending a very prestigious college.

A bit of a mystery and somewhat of a love story evolves into quite a crazy novel. At times I was all on board and then I’d read more and become disinterested. Finishing the novel was bit of a chore. I am not totally unhappy that I read it but would caution anyone who would like to try to be open minded and patient. I wonder what the Brontes would have thought about this !!!!



Negative 22

Funny enough, I really thought that I wouldn’t spend time writing a review about Wife 22 (D) by Melanie Gideon because I felt like I already had spent too much valuable time trying to read the book.  I have a problem with contemporary fiction. There are many reasons why I feel so strongly and they are why I decided to pen this review.

Wife 22 is about Alice Buckle a woman in crisis.  She is living her 45th year in dread and depression.  She lost her Mom when her Mom was 45 and so she is fearful of living to be older than her.  Now, this made a bit of sense to me because I experienced some odd feelings the year that I moved past the age my mother was when she died.  There is something to be said about living longer than your parent.  It makes you aware of how young they were when their life ended and how many things they still wanted to do.

Alice lives in the electronic age and much of her day is spent corresponding with people through email, text messages and social media.  Through email, she receives an invitation to participate in a marriage survey composed of questions that she will receive in batches.  She has been assigned a number (Wife #22) that will keep her anonymous, as well as a Researcher, (#101) who will read and decipher her questions.  The questions and the discussions that follow lead her to put her life, her marriage, children and friends under a microscope.

My issue isn’t with the story, albeit ordinary and predictable, but rather with the way it is written.  I do not consider the text of emails and instant messages literature. Is this the type of “contemporary” nonsense that is going to become the legacy of our time?  Is this what we want future generations to read?  Is Gideon and those like her going to be considered our Brontes and Austens?  Heaven help us. I do not want this to be our generation’s legacy. I think we deserve better and should expect better too.  I spend a good part of my day communicating via the Internet.  It is often necessary, convenient and enjoyable too.  But then there is the time in my day when I pick up a book to feed my brain and my soul.  I need a healthy diet not sloppy fast food.

If you feel as I do, pass on Wife 22, instead reread Jane Eyre.  I read another review of this novel and it touted it as a “beach read”. I say take it to the beach and leave it there.  Maybe the seagulls will enjoy it.


On American Idol contestants are always advised not to take on a famous song by a big artist. The same should be true regarding writing a novel.  Margot Livesey took on Charlotte Bronte with the writing of The Flight of Gemma Hardy (C).  This novel is so like Jane Eyre it’s almost plagiaristic. I have no problem with an author modeling their style after someone famous, but I do not think it acceptable to create a story identical in the telling.

Gemma Hardy/Jane Eyre is an orphan that is being raised by her Uncle.  After his death, she is no longer treated well.  In fact she is treated as nothing more than a servant.  Soon enough, just like Jane,  Gemma becomes a nanny for a child being raised by a very wealthy man and of course falls in love with him.  Though Gemma’s story is told in 1950 rather than 1850 the plot and characters are duplicates of those in Bronte’s novel.

Beside the blinding likenesses in the story, Margot Livesey writes well.  Surely anyone unfamiliar with Jane Eyre will enjoy this novel.  Jane Eyre is a favorite today 100 years after it was first written because it is an emotional story about a passionate young woman who defies all the odds. It is a story that stands the test of time and readers love to champion the underdog.

With this being said, I think that Livesey’s book will sell well and be read by many.  My hope is that it will encourage anyone who hasn’t read Jane Eyre to read it now.  Livesey cannot and should not compete with the original; for me it is untouchable.