Friday, 17 April 2009

Wildthorn - a cracking read

I read Jane Eagland's novel this week. I picked it up in a slightly zombified state on Easter Monday, thinking a couple of hours reading would see me right before an early bed. It didn't. I couldn't put it down. And consequentially found myself finally switching off the light five hours later, when I knew what did happen to Louisa, who had betrayed her in the first place and how she dealt with her discovery.

It's being marketed as a novel for teenagers, and to that effect is a straightforward read, but the characters are complex and empathetic, even the 'evil' Weeks, and the theme of the book - incarceration of women into Victorian asylums for 'deviancy' - is potent and richly researched, lightly executed. Louisa's crime is that she want's to be a doctor, and doesn't want to marry. She becomes friends with a rape victim. Another woman was dumped there for being unmarried, and dependent on her brother and his wife.

My only complaint would be the cover. I understand it's a strong selling point, but it's precisely the restrictive nature of the corset (and all it's 'feminine' aspirations) that Louisa challenges.

I've worked with Jane. She was published in Flax001 and we've kept in contact since then. So seeing her motivation behind the story, how it quietly displays her sense of injustice and horror at this all too common practice, was an added pleasure, and gave another perspective to my read. Jane's need to illuminate the abhorrent dependent 'non-status' women had in the nineteenth century is what fuels the book, keeps the fire of the language and plot alive. It made me realise what a great, compassionate, socially responsible writer she is and why I hold her in such high esteem.

She is currently writing her second book. It'll be a pleasure to read her next quiet expression of passion.

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