04 December 2010

Book Review: Wildthorn

Title: Wildthorn
Author: Jane Eagland
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Release Date: 6 September 2010
Date Finished: 4 November 2010

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: 100+ Reading, Hogwarts Reading Challenge, Young Adult ReadingGLBT Challenge,

The Short and Sweet of It
Louisa Cosgrove arrived at Wildthorn in a horse-drawn carriage unhappy but safe. Minutes later she is stripped of her clothing, told her name is Lucy Childs, and committed to the asylum. Shaken, she struggles to maintain her identity as she reflects on the events leading up to her involuntary and unexpected imprisonment.

A Bit of a Ramble
Reading this book was a very enjoyable experience, in no small part because it kept reminding me of Sarah Waters' Fingersmith which I adored. A Victorian setting, highlighting a young lesbian fighting to be an independent woman... carriages, corsets, asylums, forbidden love, horrid nurses, tortured souls.... how can one not enjoy a book like this?

As always I am horrified and completely intrigued by the Victorian views on mental health. There is something at once sickening and morbidly pleasurable in reading about the incarceration of women for no good reason (by today's standards) and in seeing the wretched way the patients were treated. I'm convinced this is normal; that it does not, in fact, make me a bad person. It's like staring at a car crash or being fascinated by horror films or enjoying reality television.

I get the most joy out of the wonderful reasons Victorian women were committed. Here's a quick compilation of the reasons Louisa  is thought mad:
An interest in medical matters inappropriate for one of her age and sex
Excessive book-reading and study leading to a weakening of the mind
Desiring to ape men by nursing an ambition to be a doctor
Self-assertiveness in the face of male authority
Obstinacy and displays of temper
Going about unchaperoned

Well holy heavens Batman, someone needs to come lock me up. My "excessive book-reading" alone is probably enough damning evidence to have them lock me up and throw away the key. The Victorian sensibility both supported and damned independent women, as is the way in transitory times. But back to the book...

I thought the book very delicately paced. The present tense accounting of Louisa's time in the asylum manages to be tense without being hurried, mimicking a sense of the unbearable oppression Louisa felt. Interspersed in this narrative are flashbacks to Louisa's past, incidents which come together to offer a picture of a family at once appropriately loving, wracked by jealousy, and struggling to understand each other.

If you have not yet picked this one up, head to the nearest book store or library.

This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!

Steph Su Reads; Bookalicious; From the TBR Pile; Amy Reads;

Question: Have you nominated a book for the Indie Lit Awards GLBTQ category yet?


  1. Re: that problem of excessive book reading. At least we would've all been locked up together, which means instant book club! And more time to read! Although getting the books might be a problem...

  2. So on Amy's review, this book reminded me a lot of Jane Eyre, but on yours, it's more like Fingersmith. I'm not sure whether to snatch it up or avoid it!!! :D

  3. Yay glad you enjoyed this one as well Trisha :) And Amanda... I didn't like Jane Eyre but liked this one soo... if that helps :)

  4. Hmm, this sounds fun–although the cover reminds me of A Great and Terrible Beauty, which I did not enjoy.

  5. @Clare YES THAT IS THE BOOK IT SOUNDS LIKE. I knew there was a certain book that I was thinking of but I couldn't remember which one. Thank you thank you for unthawing that brain freeze!

    Trisha, I'm glad you liked this one! I'm a little surprised you didn't mention the lesbian story line at all...is it not a big part of the book?

  6. Jill - That's true; if we all went back in time, we'd all be locked up together. Ah, the easy life...

    Amanda - It felt like an immature Fingersmith to me (not that immature is a bad thing, just less depth).

    Amy - I think Amanda should read it just to see...

    Clare - I haven't read that one...

    Cass - I am such an idgit! I have no idea why the lesbian relationship didn't come to mind when writing the review. She's even put in the asylum in part because of it, and it's a huge plot line in the novel. It just felt so natural that I guess I didn't latch on to it.

  7. I thought of Fingersmith before you even mentioned it! I MUST get my hands on this.

  8. I have been seeing this book everywhere, and also wondered how closely it mirrors Fingersmith. I have to admit that this book intrigues me very much and though I am on a book buying ban right now, I will probably break it for this particular book. Fabulous review. I can't wait to read it!!

  9. Ana - It's like a YA Fingersmith in many ways. You should definitely give it a try.

    Heather - It has a Fingersmithesque feel to it, but it's definitely less mature and less deep.

  10. As soon as I read your summary, I thought "This reminds me of Fingersmith." That list of reasons for commital is disturbing yet oddly fascinating. I'm so glad I don't live in that time!

  11. Pam - Glad to hear it!

    Jenners - Me too. I'll romanticize about the past from time to time, but I'm pretty sure I'm best off in the here and now.

  12. I've also recently liked 13 Reasons Why, A Certain Slant of Light, Practical Magic, and Water for Elephants.

  13. I have to admit that this book intrigues me very much and though I am on a book buying ban right now, I will probably break it for this particular book. Fabulous review. I can't wait to read it!!


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