Jane Eagland – Wildthorn
Length: 350 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Started: 07 October 2011
Finished: 08 October 2011
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? It was sitting in the staff picks section, and I absolutely picked it up because of the cover.
I’m glad that these days,
too much reading is not cause
to be called crazy.
Summary: Louisa Cosgrove thinks she’s going to be a companion to the daughter of a family that’s friendly with her brother – something she’s not exactly looking forward to, but neither can she stay at home after everything that’s happened. But when the carriage stops at the door not of a manner house but of the Wildthorn Asylum, Louisa realizes she’s been tricked. The doctors there believe that her name is Lucy Childs, and that she’s insane. Louisa knows she’s not, but how can she convince anyone, when every protest seemingly confirms their opinion? And how can she possibly escape – even with the help of a friendly nurse – before being in Wildthorn drives her mad for real?
Review: If you’re thinking, “Gee, this book sounds an awful lot like Fingersmith,” you’re not alone. And that similarity cuts both ways. It’s a large part of why I picked it up: while I enjoyed Fingersmith well enough, I did find it a little slow moving in parts, and I was interested in something on a similar topic but faster-moving. And, to its credit, that it was; I read through Wildthorn in under three hours, most of which were in a single sitting.
But in every other way, I thought Wildthorn suffers in comparison to Fingersmith. The words “pale imitation” kept coming to mind as I read, and every aspect of Wildthorn – the characters’ motivations, the depictions of the horrors of life in a Victorian mental institution, the lesbian romance – just felt thinner, weaker, less complex, less believable. I spent most of the book hoping that Louisa actually was insane, figuring that there had to be something more to the plot than what was being presented. But as things went on, it became harder and harder to convince myself that there was an interesting twist like that waiting for me, and eventually I was forced to accept that the straightforward and rather obvious explanation for Louisa’s situation was in fact the only one I was left with.
The prose itself was fine, smooth and lively and easy to read, if not always convincingly historical-sounding. But I just wanted more – more depth of characterization, more complex motivations, more vivid descriptions, more historical detail, more compelling romance – than what this book had to offer. 3 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: There are plenty of people out there (including people whose opinions on books I trust) who enjoyed it a lot more than I did, so perhaps I’m just being cranky. If this appeals to you because you like Victorian YA lit, books about insane asylums, or teen lesbian romance, then it may be worth a try. However, if you like those things because you loved Fingersmith, then I think Wildthorn may not stack up quite as well as could be hoped.
Other Reviews: There are lots of them! Check out the results from the Book Blog Search Engine.
First Line: The carriage jolts and splashes along the rutted lanes flooded by the heavy November rains.
© 2011 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.