Wildthorn Book Review


Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
Publisher: Young Picador
Pages: 359
Recommended For: Teenagers, anyone who likes historical and LGBT fiction
Source: Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove longs to break free from her respectable life as a Victorian doctor’s daughter. But her dreams become a nightmare when Louisa is sent to Wildthorn Hall: labeled a lunatic, deprived of her liberty and even her real name. As she unravels the betrayals that led to her incarceration, she realizes there are many kinds of prison. She must be honest with herself – and others – in order to be set free. And love may be the key…

My Thoughts

Wildthorn is a book that had been on my TBR list for a while before I finally picked it up at a charity shop a few months ago. It’s the third LGBT book I’ve read, after Ash and I’ll Give You the Sun, which I will review soon.

At the beginning of Wildthorn we are introduced to Louisa Cosgrove, a seventeen-year-old girl who is on her way to the Woodville’s house, to start a new life as a companion. What Louisa doesn’t realise is that she’s actually been sent to Wildthorn, a mental asylum. When Louisa arrives at Wildthorn she is very confused and frustrated, certain that there has been a mistake and she’s been mixed up with some other girl. The staff at Wildthorn call Louisa ‘Lucy Childs’, making her believe that another girl is supposed to be in her place. Louisa is therefore determined to find out the truth about why she has been sent to a mental asylum, and it is soon revealed that she has actually been sent there by someone close to her…

Jane Eagland has written a very engrossing historical novel that draw you in straightaway. The chapters are told from Louisa’s point of view, and they alternate between her time at Wildthorn and her childhood, as well as the months leading up to her incarceration. It is apparent early on that Louisa is not crazy at all – she just wants to follow her dream – but unfortunately it is one that does not match up to societal expectations. It is shocking to read about how close-minded and misogynistic people were during the 19th century.

Louisa is a girl ahead of her time, and that’s what makes her so likeable. She longs to be a doctor, just like her father, but unfortunately her mother and brother do not approve. They want Louisa to marry and have children, two things which the girl does not want to prioritise. Louisa is also attracted to girls, which doesn’t really help her situation. However, Louisa manages to keep her sexuality hidden from her family. I like the fact that that Louisa is strong, intelligent, brave and ambitious – it makes a nice change from the female leads you tend to find in Young Adult Fiction, who are usually whiny and immature (an example is Belly in The Summer I Turned Pretty).

Wildthorn is a truly vivid and shocking insight into the ways in which women were treated in the past, and how mental patients were viewed. I was able to sympathise with Louisa and I hoped that she would eventually escape from the asylum and become a doctor. I also enjoyed the romantic subplot between Louisa and Eliza. The only thing I wasn’t so keen on was the ending. It seemed a little rushed. Nevertheless, I would definitely recommend Wildthorn. It is a captivating book about betrayal, mental health and society’s attitudes towards women.

Have you read Wildthorn? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts in the comments 🙂


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