Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review: Wildthorn

Jane Eagland

Young Adult

352 pages
Houghton Mifflin
September 6th, 2010

Received from publisher


Wildthorn Hall is an asylum. Its residents are the mentally deficient, the forgotten, and the unwanted. Its galleries, save one, are dark, windowless, and full of female guards with an affinity for inflicting pain on those who cannot defend themselves. Louisa Cosgrove doesn't belong here. Shouldn't be here. She's not insane, she has a strained but still loving relationship with her mother, and she's supposed to be on her way to her new place of employment. There's been a mistake.

Everyone at Wildthorn says her name is Lucy Childs and she's merely deluded herself into thinking she's this Lousia Cosgrove. The doctors and staff members claim they have her best interests in mind, but as she's stripped of her valuables, clothes, and dignity, it becomes clear that to them she's just another girl come to join the ranks of lunacy.

Allies are few and far between, trust is not an option, and if she wants to prove her sanity, Louisa needs to get a look at the papers that confined her to this prison. Who could have done this? Why won't anyone listen? Who is Lucy Childs? Louisa must find the answers to all these questions and more before her mental and emotional strength is depleted by the barrenness of her circumstance, and she becomes nothing more than the simpering, mental invalid they already think her to be.


Ms. Eagland certainly knows how to write a compelling story. The misery and hopelessness of having one's own identity called into question is thoroughly haunting, and Louisa's fight to retain her sanity in the face utter oblivion pulls the heart strings to a new and shocking tautness. Written in the first person, the reader is often left alone with Louisa and her thoughts as conversation in the asylum is limited at best, forcing us to live every indignity, every injustice, every betrayal with her. Her pain is our pain. Her fears are our fears. And we wish that perhaps our strength might leak through the pages and buoy her as she drifts alone through uncharted waters.

If you're looking for a novel that's action-packed, this is not it. The beginning is a little slow as the story alternates between Louisa's past and present, but soon it evolves into an intellectual mystery at it's finest. A story where the reader must constantly question whether we can trust the thoughts to which we're privy. Louisa seems so certain she is who she says she is, and we're presented with multiple flashbacks of the events leading up to her institutionalization that seem to corroborate her story, but are those memories really hers? Is she really Louisa Cosgrove and this is all a mistake as we so desperately want to believe, or is she truly ill and these hints about her past are the creations of a mind with diminished capacity?

Louisa herself is beautifully written as a strong, proud, intelligent, and outspoken young women living in a time where women with intellectual abilities were shunned and treated as outcasts for daring to believe they might be equals of men. A time when excessive reading, when done by a female, was thought to lead to insanity and was wholly inappropriate for the fairer sex. Louisa pushes every boundary, refusing to adhere to the standard practices of society women, and that characteristic in conjunction with her unwavering strength in the face of a seemingly hopeless fate makes her a truly inspired protagonist.

Though not a dominant storyline by any means, some readers may be deterred by the exploration of a budding same-sex romance. Personally, I say those readers would be missing out on a character who isn't afraid to blur the lines of gender distinction in terms of occupation, sexuality, and place in society, and who chips away at established constructs with nothing short of an admirable confidence.

A beautiful, touching, and fascinating tale, Wildthorn should be added to your to-be-read pile as soon as possible.

Rating: 4/5


  1. Sounds like a truly fantastic book! I love the fact that you have to formulate your own opinions, and can't always trust what is presented. I've got to read this! Excellent review.

  2. I wasn't really sure what this book was about. I read a blurb on Amazon a while back and wrote it off. It seems I'll be taking another look after your review. Thanks so much!

  3. I have this on net galley buth ave yet to sit down and read it. I totally need a e-reader

  4. i've been wanting to read this one, sounds really good!

  5. Oh I'm glad you liked this. I've been wanting to read it. I've got it in my Netgalley requests!

  6. Wow! This is an excellent review and so well written. It sounds very tragic.

  7. Emidy - I agree, I love the ones that keep me guessing, it makes things all the more interesting:)

    anjohnston - I hope you like it! I found the blurb a little confusing as well, but it's a great story.

    Savannah - You do need an e-reader! I got one just because there were so many on Net Galley I wanted to read and I knew I'd never do it if I had to read on the computer screen:)

    Carrie - You should definitely give it a try, it's one of the ones I think about even now that I'm done.

    Mollie - Get reading! Hope you like it:)

    Midnyte - Thank you! It definitely has it's tragic moments, and moments that made me want to scream at the injustice of it all, but that was part of what made it good.

  8. Thanks for your review; I'm really excited to read this one-- I LOVE the cover!

    I have an award for you here.

  9. Thanks so much for stopping by my site the other week for Blog Hop Friday.

    I like your blog, and yes Nightshade was amazing.

    This book is also one of my highly rated reads. Its a great story.

    Valorie @ Truth Be Told

  10. Thanks for stopping by my blog on last week's Hop! This book sounds really interesting :-) and I love the cover!

  11. This sounds like an awesome book, I love the premise. Stories involving a character who may or may not be insane always pique my interest, and I'm glad to hear that the main character is intelligent and strong. That's always an unexpected bonus in YA books these days. Thanks for sharing. I'm so gonna check this out.

  12. I just order this book today. After reading your review I am more excited for it to come.