Louisa Cosgrove is an independent-minded young woman living in Victorian-era England in Jane Eagland‘s Wildthorn. The novel opens on Louisa traveling in a carriage towards what she believes will be a sort-of job. When she arrives, she realizes that she has been delivered to an insane asylum! The staff insist on calling her by another name and point out the identity confusion as proof that she is in the right place. Why is Louisa here? Is she really who she says she is? Can she rely on any family members to help her, or is she stuck inside this oppressive place?
I shudder to think of the number of women who must have suffered similar fates; locked away because they did not have the desire to follow society’s rules at the time, punished for being smart and wanting to read. (I would not have survived!) I’ve always had a mild fascination with old insane asylums and sanitariums/sanatoriums, the reasons people entered the facilities, and how they were treated. Ms. Eagland allows the reader to get a realistic glimpse into these details, especially as Louisa moves throughout the asylum and sees different levels of care.
The book kept me on my toes, trying to figure out how exactly Louisa ended up in the asylum. I liked Louisa a lot, and found her believable and sympathetic. Her family, on the other hand, all had their faults, and I felt sorry for her being stuck with them. None of them are likable. One female relative (I’ll avoid saying who because it could slightly spoil the plot twists) could be an exception, but in the end of the book, I disagreed with the choices she made. I do think said choices are what women in that time period would have done, so I think it’s just something I need to accept in my head. I liked Eliza and could appreciate her character development. She reminded me of Martha in The Secret Garden, which is a comparison I have since seen mentioned elsewhere.
I will definitely be adding this to my high school library once it is released. The cover is very eye-catching and will sell itself to a number of readers. I look forward to reading her other book, Whisper My Name.
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On a side note, this is the first full book I have read on a Kindle. I don’t think I read it any slower or faster than a paper book, but I have to admit that at times, I was distracted. The “page size” is too small. The text size is fine, but I want the screen to be bigger, to fit more text on it. I also took a while to get used to the button set-up. I wanted the “next page” button to the left of the screen to be a “previous page” and I kept hitting that to go back. It’s an older release, so it appears the buttons have changed.