Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children; 1 edition (September 6, 2010)
Book 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 . .
My review: Wildthorn is a YA historical novel unlike any others I've read (with the exception of Barbara Quick's A Golden Web). Louisa is such a unique heroine: spunky, independent, untraditional and fiercely intelligent. Those traits made her a likable character. She was a young woman before her time, living in an age where women were born and raised to become wives and mothers. When she expresses a desire to study medicine, her physician father encourages her, while everyone else she knows does not. After her father's death, she simply asks her brother for permission to study her passion in life, medicine. What she receives is a patronizing denial which is only the beginning of her problems.
Louisa is tricked into believing she's taking on a position and is instead locked away in an asylum. Weaker minded females would have cried or sunk into a depression. Louisa, being told she is delusional and her real name is Lucy, fights. She fights back with her wit, quick thinking, her fists if needed, and her memory. I loved how when she felt she was falling into a state of funk, she began to recall medical terms. She also finds help from a worker, Eliza, and she becomes an ally. Wildthorn is also a coming of age tale and even here our heroine is untraditional, but I won't spoil the rest of her amazing story.
Told in first person present with alternating chapters in the present and past, we gain insight into Louisa's background, allowing us to understand her completely. The tense also gives the novel an urgency while Eagland's writing is lovely and picturesque. Wildthorn is ultimately a story of perseverance, passion and grim determination. Louisa is a strong young woman, way ahead of her time, which every reader will feel happy rooting for. Louisa and her story are unforgettable.
Favorite excerpt: From pages 123-124, digital galley ARC.
"I looked him straight in the face and said as calmly as I could, "I'm not joking Tom. This is what I really want. I've worked hard and I think I nearly know enough for the preliminary exams. And Papa--" I stopped, swallowed, then went on. "Papa supported me. He said I could, if Mamma agreed. That's why I'd like you to speak to her."
I think he could tell that I was serious. Abruptly his manner changed. The colour left his face and he just stared at me, shaking his head slowly.
A horrible feeling began to grow inside me. "Tom--"
He put out his hand to stop me. "It's out of the question. I am the head of this house now and I won't allow it."
Cover comment: The symbolic corset is okay.
Book source: Digital galley from publisher at Netgalley