Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Pub date 9/6/2010.

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 . . . (from netgalley.com)
"Excessive study, especially in one of the fair sex, often leads to insanity."
Imagine that's the norm. Women reading? There must be something wrong with them. Why would they want to study? They're not capable of doing what the men folk can do. They don't have the brains for it. They'd only overexert themselves. Possibly twist their brains into incomprehension trying to process all of information that they could ever hope of processing.

Disregard every freedom you have today. Those TBR piles? Gone. The ability to read freely? Gone. College? Gone. You, as a woman (sorry guys), are expected to do womanly things only and that certainly doesn't include a scientific education. You want to be a doctor? Haha! Silly girl. Doctors are for dicks.

I wanted to read this book so horribly badly the second I found out about it simply because it's horrifying what happened to women during the Victorian era. It was legal for people to stick chicks in nut houses because they were a burden, they weren't acting properly, they were moody. Just think about that. Your husband thinks you're being a little too irrational and it might affect his standing with his peers. Well, he's just going to send you to a place like Wildthorn to help you out a little. Too bad their version of "helping out" was drugging you, treating you like shit, electrifying you, binding you up and leaving you in a tub for hours. You know, cathartic things.

And don't think for a second that we wouldn't all meet each other in a place like that if the times were different. All this reading? Cause for insanity.

So going into the book my inner feminist was ramped up. I've read about asylums from back then and I knew how horrible they were but you don't often hear stories from the patient's perspective. The story starts and you don't know if Louisa really is sick or not. The way she talks, acts, she seems perfectly fine. True, the insane don't really know they're insane but you're in her head and it doesn't seem so crazy in there. The only thing that kept me legitimately questioning her sanity was the name issue. She was admitted as Lucy Childs but she kept insisting her name was Louisa Cosgrove. That kept me questioning for a long time.

I also had to keep guessing at the incident that Louisa/Lucy felt got her locked up. The closer the story got to the reveal, the more obvious it got and honestly, I like the twist the story took at that point. Without giving too much away, it highlights an issue that I'm sure was thoroughly ignored during that time despite it actually being in existence. And the relationship that was formed because of it was so endearing and loving it was hard not to get a little misty about it.

I was turning from one page to the next without wanting to stop. What happened to Louisa/Lucy while locked away at Wildthorn was horrendous. And to think that actually happened to many women is even more horrifying. You tried to defend yourself and you were considered even crazier and sent to an even crazier ward of the hospital where you were left to start questioning your own insanity and your own reason. So many women went into places like that totally sane and lost their minds to those institutions. It's so sad.

The plot itself is very stagnant. If you're not at Louisa/Lucy's aunt's house or her own home, you're at the asylum. There's not too much action in terms of action/adventure but the trials that Louisa/Lucy went through were more than enough for me. Fighting for the very status of your own brain is a mighty feat and she never gave up, even when her situation looked end-of-times bleak. She's such a strong character and I think if only more women were really as strong as she was, they might have fared a little better. Or maybe worse, as it were, unfortunately.

When the following things could have gotten a woman locked in a terrifying insane asylum without any recourse whatsoever -
facts indicating insanity observed by myself - An interest in medical matters inappropriate for one of her age and sex; A neglect of appearance and personal toilet, and wearing unsuitable clothing for a young lady of her status

other factors indicating insanity communicated to me by others - Excessive book-reading and study leading to a weakening of the mind; Desiring to ape men by nursing an ambition to be a doctor; Self-assertiveness in the face of male authority; Obstinacy and displays of temper; Going about unchaperoned to London alone in a third class railway compartment
- it's hard not to immediately sympathize with the main character when you yourself exhibit all of those characteristics. It's hard not to sit there and have your heart break when you read what happened to this girl because she read a little too much; because she wanted to be a doctor. I just connected with this book on such a personal level that I want to read it over and over and over again.

Hopefully we've learned from history and these kinds of atrocities will never repeat themselves. Let's hope it's forever relegated to compelling stories and no one will ever be able to describe what it was really like in one of those places. Reading Wildthorn I could actually feel what it was like. I had dreams about it. It made me thank the gods I live in the time that I do.

Read this if you want an excellent historical fiction. Read it if you want a compelling story about a girl having to deal with a situation far beyond her control. Read it if you can even for a second imagine what it would be like to have all of your rights ripped away because someone couldn't be bothered with you. Read it if you want an amazing story.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you liked it - I've wanted to read it, but I wasn't sure about it. =D But I trust your judgement, so I'm excited!

AtenRa said...

Great review!I loved it loved it loved it!Even my dad liked it,so it's for everyone.

Elie said...

Great review. I was immediately drawn to the cover- after your review, I feel like I need to read this for the content. Thanks.

One Pushy Fox said...

Oh, I have this on my Kindle waiting to be read. Thanks for bumping it up on my list!

April (BooksandWine) said...

I need to check out my copy of this! I love the cover AND I think I know the twist.

I think the whole asylum thing is fascinating. I know what happened is terrible, but like I said, it fascinates me how anyone could possibly think throwing someone in the loony bin is going to 'fix' them.

Also, heaven forbid a female get any sort of book learning.

miss cindy :) said...

I have this for review and will read it soon! Awesome review and I am very glad you liked it :)

Donna said...

Yeah, this one's definitely a must read.

Mollie said...

Ohh I requested this from Net Galley but haven't had a chance to start it. Glad to hear it's good! I'll try to get to it sooner!

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