Eagland, Jane. “Wildthorn”, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010.
Lambda Literary Award Winner for Young Adult Fiction
Louisa Cosgrove is 17 and when she gets to Wildthorn Hall, her world suddenly changes. She is told that she is not well and that her name is not Louisa Cosgrove but Lucy Childs. She protests of course and she is told that she is just thinking she is someone else and because she thinks she is not sick that means she is that much sicker.
This is her story as she tells it to us and it is a nightmare. What led up to Louisa getting to Wildthorn? Her father encouraged her to study medicine while her mother tried to get her to be more of a girl and as she remembers this, she receives harsh treatment at Wildthorn which is a hospital. We are never really quite sure if Louisa is who she says she is but this all works out in the end.
When Louisa’s father died, she was tricked into going to Wildthorn where she is stripped of identity and she begins to plan her escape so that she can take care of those who betrayed her because of her interest in learning something that is not particularly feminine. Louisa is in no way a typical girl and in this modern gothic novel we get a look at insane asylums and sexuality of the period. Louisa’s sexuality is never directly written about but it is hinted that she was a lesbian as women who did not fit in were labeled.
We get the idea that excessive study often leads to insanity and that girls who studied too much were considered eccentric. I found myself pulled in on the first page and I actually finished the book in one sitting. The character development is superb and the characters are wonderfully drawn. The plot is excellent and the writing is beautiful. I found myself blaming everyone for the way Louisa was treated and I was so happy when she found some solace in Eliza. This is a compelling read and I can certainly see how young girls will love the book.