Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wildthorn, by Jane Eagland

WildthornLousia is not your typical girl.  She does not conform to the standards of women of her time, aspiring to be a doctor instead of a wife and a mother.  And then there is the issue of her love life.  While Louisa's father supported her dreams, upon his passing, no one else would hear of it.  So when Louisa finds herself locked in an insane asylum, with the administrators insisting she is someone named Lucy Childs, she is not sure if it is a case of mistaken identity, or something far more nefarious.

This book does a respectable job of being a modern gothic novel.  While it is no Jane Eyre, it certainly does have gothic appeal, and could very easily attract new, young readers to classic gothic literature.  I greatly enjoyed the historical aspect of the novel, reading about mental health approaches of the past.  It reminded me a but of the movie The Snake Pit.  Not a topic often written about in young adult literature, the plot was definitely unique and left you wondering what was reality and what was insanity.

I greatly enjoyed Louisa's character, and while her sexuality is never explicitly addressed, it is hinted that she is a lesbian, something I found at once intriguing and disappointing.  I am intrigued at this choice, for it must have been quite accurate that many women who did not fit the conventional standards may have been bisexual or lesbian, but I am also disappointed in that the conclusion is drawn that only a lesbian would be so unconventional, or such an unconventional woman, wanting to be a doctor, would have to be a woman not sexually attracted to men.  In fact, the hidden theme seemed to be that Louisa wanted to be a man, though this is never really explored in depth.  Why could she not just be an assertive woman.  And why could a married woman, with children, not be a lesbian?  Just something to ponder.

While I did greatly enjoy this book, I felt it a bit mature for the intended audience of grades 9-12.  I think it would be more appropriate for readers at the older end of that spectrum.  It is certainly dark, with fairly mature themes.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of NetGalley.