Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Katherine Longshore 4 Thursday, December 09, 2010
Imagine living in a time and place where you could be imprisoned for speaking your mind.  For being outside the norm.   For not conforming.

It’s not a dystopian futuristic fantasy.  It’s historical.  In Wildthorn (Houghton Mifflin, 2010), Jane Eagland tells the story of fictional Louisa Cosgrove, middle class daughter of a respected country doctor.  Her brother expects to enter the family business.  Lou is expected to marry well, like her aunt Phyllis, and spend her days fretting over curtains and making fifteen-minute courtesy calls all afternoon to the boring, snooty clients of her husband. 

But Lou wants to be a doctor.  She loves to attend her father’s rounds with him.  She studies hard, entirely on her own, from the books in his library.  And with the opening of the London School of Medicine for Women, she finally has a chance.  Until her father dies.  And the rest of her family, from her jealous, selfish brother to her loving, free-spirited aunt, thinks her dreams are ridiculous.  And she is sent away to be a companion.  To forget her dreams.

But she ends up in a mental institution.  Locked away under another name.  Witness to brutality.  Drugged.  With no explanation or hope for escape.

Eagland describes the bleak atmosphere of a 19th century mental institution with precision and grace.  Her eye for historical accuracy is keen and her dedication to the truth unwavering.  It is not pretty.  She has meticulously researched the science of medicine at the time, as well, giving Lou all the knowledge she needs and nothing more.  She finds her way through the drugs and procedures of the institution by her senses – a process I found fascinating.  The reader gets a true sense of life in Victorian England.

As Lou discovers the truth behind her incarceration, she also navigates her way into a tender romance – one that breaks conventions.  But then, Lou is an unconventional girl.  And that’s what makes her story compelling.

Comment, tweet @yamuses, or follow the blog to be entered to win a copy of WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan, one of the books I reviewed here in recent months, or CHAINS by Laurie Halse Anderson.  You’ll also be entered for our big Friday giveaway in celebration of the anniversary of the day the YA Muses met in a critique group at Big Sur.


I LOVE Victorian settings from Phillip Pullman's SALLY LOCKHART trilogy to Anne Perry's mystery series featuring William Monk and Thomas Pitt. Definitely adding WILDTHORN to my to-read list. Thanks for the review!

This sounds like it might be really good! I'm putting it on my list of books to watch for.

Wow, this review really makes me want to read the book! Thanks!

First, I have to say that the cover really caught my eye. And second, I've read lots of books set in the Victorian time period but nothing like this. My interest is seriously piqued.

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