Wednesday, April 6, 2011

YA BOOK REVIEW: Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

I reviewed this entertaining YA historical for The Historical Novels Review, Issue 55, February 2011. If you are a historical fiction fan, you may be interested in The Historical Novel Society with its quarterly reviews, website with links to authors and new releases, and an upcoming conference in San Diego. Check it out!

As for the review, this is how it appeared in print:

Insane asylums of the 19th century were a bad place to be locked up, particularly for those unfortunate women who were sane when they were committed. Moreover, men (that is, wealthy or well-connected men) were seemingly allowed to define "crazy" in whatever way was convenient. Wildthorn by Jane Eagland joins a strong tradition of novels that deals with these issues.

Louisa Cosgrove is an intelligent and headstrong young woman living in 19th century England. Her father is a physician, her mother is a physician's wife and a conformist, and her older brother is her intellectual inferior and a bully. Louisa has never been a "normal" girl. She wants to follow in her father's footsteps and, despite her mother's attempts to squeeze this square peg in to a round hole, her father encourages her to follow her dreams. But after he dies, Louisa finds herself committed to an insane asylum. At first she is convinced it was a mistake; after all, they think she is "Lucy Childs." The she realizes with horror that someone has put her there. Louisa struggles with an impossible conundrum--the more she argues with the authorities, insists upon her true identity and sanity, or suggests that there must be a plot against her, the more she confirms their opinion that she is mad. As expected, if she fights, if only makes her situation worse. Physicians are incompetent (or corrupt) and the staff is either indifferent or sadistic.

Along with Louisa, the reader searches for a way out, hoping for intervention from a caring relative from outside-- if only the could be made aware of her plight. But who can be trusted if someone she loves put her there?

1 comment:

  1. I read this one a couple of years ago when it first came out in the UK. I learnt a lot about Victorian asylums through it but it wasn't my favourite YA historical.