Rummanah Aasi
I've read quite a few interesting reviews about Jane Eagland's debut novel, Wildthorn, last year. I was intrigued about the book's premise of being locked up in an insane asylum without knowing why. It was this reason why I decided to pick the book up.

Description: Louisa Cosgrove is an ambitious 17 year old. She aspires to be a doctor and refuses to conform to the traditional gender roles of a woman in the 19th century. Her dream dims as she finds herself tricked and incarcerated in Wildthorn, a Victorian insane asylum. With the help of Eliza, a worker at the asylum, escape becomes a possibility for Louisa, but the romantic love growing between the two girls presents another danger. Why was Louisa put in Wildthorn and who put her there? Will she escape?

Review: Wildthorn gives us a glimpse into the shameful history of mental health care and women's incarceration during the 19th century. As we start the book, Louisa is looking forward to seeing some family friends, however, she never makes it there and arrives at Wildthorn, an infamous insane asylum. The staff insists her name is Lucy Childs and that she suffers from hallucinations. She is immediately stripped from her clothes and given various "treatments" ranging from tranquilizers to the horrific sensory deprivation in solitary confinement. The mystery of Louisa's incarceration is revealed through alternating chapters of her present and childhood. It the mystery aspect of the novel that truly shines. We feel Louisa's tension, anxiety, and her fear of being mistakenly committed. Through flashbacks of the past, we are given hints about what lead up to the present.
  I liked Louisa. She is outspoken and refuses to conform to society's role. She has a thirst for knowledge, which she got from her father. Her mother and brother disagree with her studious habits and is she constantly in trouble for not attending to her domestic duties. Louisa knows who she is and it is her strong belief in her identity that prevents her to accept her new status quo. Unlike many of the other inmates, who seem to develop accept their "mental illness" from the cruelty of their surroundings, Louisa is determined to escape. She slowly develops a connection with a lovely asylum employee, Eliza. There is a sweet romance between Eliza and Louisa that builds slowly that adds depth to the story.
 My main problem with Wildthorn is that I hard time accepting the reason why Louisa is committed to Wildthorn and I fit the revelation was a bit anticlimatic compared to the urgent tone of the first half of the book. I also found the ending to be a bit unrealistic and wrapped in a bow too nicely considering the serious and/or topics that the author brought up in the book. Though Wildthorn is interesting for those who are curious about this time period and psychology, it may be a bit too heavy and slow for some readers. I did enjoy the book and would recommend it but I was looking for a bit more of a punch. I do look forward to reading more from Eagland.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and a very brief allusion to sex. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
1 Response
  1. Jenny Says:

    I agree Rummanah, this one was definitely slow at times, but that pace just made me all tense because I can't even imagine being locked in an institution where everything said in your defense ends up making you seem more and more unstable. Really nice review:)

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