Published: 6 February 2009 by Houghton Mifflin
Length: 359 pages
Summary : Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove longs to break free from her respectable life as a Victorian doctor's daughter. But her dreams become a nightmare when Louisa is sent to Wildthorn Hall: labeled a lunatic, deprived of her liberty and even her real name. As she unravels the betrayals that led to her incarceration, she realizes there are many kinds of prison. She must be honest with herself - and others - in order to be set free. And love may be the key...
Review: Louisa Cosgrove is on her way to live with a family her brother knows-or so she thinks. But when the carriage pulls up at a building too imposing to be a home, she is told she is at Wildthorn: she sent to an insane asylum. She has no idea why, but there she is stripped of her real name and her freedom. She must find out why she got sent there, who sent her there, and she must also try and escape.
I loved Louisa so much. She's a very determined and intelligent person, very set on doing as her father did, going to medical school, and defying social expectations. She puts up with what her mother makes her do, but still tries to nurture her dreams. When she ends up at Wildthorn, she uses her determination in a different way, keeping the plot moving.
The rest of the characteors are varied, but not amazing. I liked Louisa's father the best, as he encouraged Louisa to go for it. Tom, her brother, and her mother, are very annoying: partially because they're very stuck in the attitudes of the time to keep to gender norms, and partially because they're not that interesting. Most of the staff at Wildthorn are sinister and good villians.
The romance between Louisa and Eliza, a maid at Wildthorn is subtle, and quite sweet. And then there's an epilogue which just seems out of place and a not very satisfying ending to the novel.
It would have been nice to look a little more at lesbian themes in the 19th century. There is a little about Eliza not wanting to tell everyone, and Louisa dreaming of being able to be open about it all, but it could have been looked a little more in the asylum context (because of 19th century attitudes to homosexuality, and also there's just not enough decent LGBT historicals in my opinion).
The writing is good. It's very descriptive and very good at making you feel like you're there. You're pulled in quite quickly, feeling the confusion that Louisa feels at the start and wanting to know more. I liked the alternating between past and present events:it was good at getting information across and making you interested. The climax of the plot, while being intriguing and twisty, felt rushed compared to the detail we got of the buildup.
Overall: Strength 4 tea to a 19th century mystery with an ending that's not as good as the setup.
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