Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
Addition: Review e-book
Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove longs to break free from her respectable life as a Victorian doctor’s daughter. But her dreams become a nightmare when Louisa is sent to Wildthorn Hall: labelled a lunatic, deprived of her liberty and even her real name. As she unravels the betrayals that led to her incarceration, she realizes there are many kinds of prison. She must be honest with herself – and others – in order to be set free. And love may be the key…
This is a young adult, historical novel, and the first Jane Eagland novel I have read. I was fortunate to receive it to review from netGallery and I enjoyed it.
The protagonist is Louise Cosgrove, an intelligent girl who is more interested in science and medicine than she is to conforming to society and being seen as a “lady”. Her dream is to become to attend the London School of Medicine for Women and to become a doctor. She has the support of her father, but when he dies life changes for her. Her mother loses herself in grief and has to be tended too and her brother Tom is angry at Louisa and has given in the freedom London provides. Louisa is also struggling with her feelings for her cousin. She has discovered she doesn’t love men, she likes women, something that is not allowed in Victorian society so she has to keep these feelings hidden. Soon Louisa finds herself being shipped off to a family far away, but she never makes it there. Instead she is dropped of at Wildthorn, a lunatic asylum. There she loses her identity and is subject to horrid treatment. The more she tries to explain who she really is, the more they think she is mad. Everyone, that is, except Eliza, the helper who doesn’t like how people are treated. Soon they form a friendship and with Eliza’s help Louisa is able to piece together what happened, who betrayed her and why she is trapped at Wildthorn.
I found this a fairly quick read and certainly enjoyable. I sometimes think Eagland forgot she was writing about Victorian times, but other than that I thought the book was alright. The ending didn’t come as a huge shock. I was surprised by who orchestrated the betrayal but the reasons why and how the book then ended did not come as a surprise. This was a good read, I enjoyed it. I think Eagland described the asylum well, and it was certainly horrid! She writes the thoughts and preconceptions that the Victorian’s had well – that ladies should stay at home and only men could work.
I liked Louisa. I felt myself feeling sorry for her as the effects of Wildthorn started to take their toll and I liked that she was clever and ambitious. I found Eliza a nice read too – although their friendship did not come as a surprise. I liked Eliza’s family too. They were welcoming and caring and a lovely bunch of people to read about. I think Eagland wrote realistic characters for the majority. I’m not convinced Louisa’s Papa would have encouraged her pursuit of medicine quite so much, but the rest of the cast were believable. The women saw their role as at home being the wife and men saw themselves as better than women and the breadwinner.
This is not the best book I have read recently but I did enjoy it. This is a good young adult book, and it is nice to see that genre leaving vampires and werewolves alone and heading into history.