Book Review - Wildthorn Hall by Jane Eagland

Monday December 6, 2010

by Jane Eagland
Published September 6th 2010 
by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children 
(first published February 6th 2009) 
Goodreads Summary: They strip her naked, of everything—undo her whalebone corset, hook by hook. Locked away in Wildthorn Hall—a madhouse—they take her identity. She is now called Lucy Childs. She has no one; she has nothing. But, she is still seventeen—still Louisa Cosgrove, isn't she? Who has done this unthinkable deed? Louisa must free herself, in more ways than one, and muster up the courage to be her true self, all the while solving her own twisted mystery and falling into an unconventional love . . . Originally published in the UK, this well-paced, provocative romance pushes on boundaries—both literal and figurative—and, do beware: it will bind you, too.

Review:  This is one of those reads where you think you kind of know what the book is going to be about and then, in the end, you really didn't. First off, I really love the cover..the corset with its dual symbolism of both beauty and pain is also a great metaphor for the heart of this story... the binding repression of women through out history. 

Louisa Cosgrove has never been the good, compliant daughter that her mother has always wanted.  Instead of making the social rounds with her mother, or playing with dolls and drinking tea, Louisa would rather be studying about medicine and going with her father as he visits his patients. Lucky for Louisa, her inquisitive nature and modern ways are somewhat supported by her loving father. Her mother and brother Tom on the other hand, are embarrassed and distressed by Louisa's nontraditional aspirations. 

After a series of events, Louisa is sent to stay with a family as a favor to her brother, but where she ends up is nothing like she expected.  What she thinks is the household she will be staying in, is actually Wildthorn Hall....a madhouse full of women who have been deemed "unfit" to live in society. What Louisa finds out is that society's definition of crazy is often a broad term used to define women who don't fit into tightly knit roles that men have ascribed to them. 

Through out Louisa's struggles to reclaim her real name and identity there is the underlying mystery of who exactly had her committed to Wildthorn Hall. Her suspicions lead her to believe that it is her uptight traditional minded brother, but as Louisa figures out how to find her freedom, she also discovers exactly who had her sent away in the first place.....a discovery that will change her life forever. 

While Louisa is trying to find her way out of the cruel and repressive Wildthorn Hall, she meets a few kind hearts who help her along the way. One person in particular may have the key to her freedom as well as her heart.

A keen look into horrid, repressive ways that women have been treated through out history when they did not "behave" themselves in society's expected ways. We also discover that a place such as Wildthorn Hall was also a depository for women who "complicated" the lives of men (unbwanted pregnancies etc.) A real eye opener that will leave some readers finding it hard to believe. The ending is a probable and realistic depiction of the lives of those who loved "unconventionally" for the times.