Tag Archives: Jane Eagland


Jane Eagland, Wildthorn

Wildthorn was Jane Eagland’s first novel, and what an absolutely marvellous story it is! I’m so glad I read it, after being aware of Jane’s writing for several years.

I’m not quite sure when it is set. I’m guessing the 1870s or 1880s. 17-year-old Louisa Cosgrove is travelling to stay with the Woodvilles to be a companion to a young lady. Instead she finds herself at Wildthorn Hall, where they address her as Lucy Childs.

Thus begins her nightmare, and Louisa discovers she’s been put in an asylum. She doesn’t at first know by whom or why, and she believes the ‘mistake’ will soon be rectified.

Interspersed with what happens to her at Wildthorn Hall, we learn what’s been going on in her life up till now, and the reader begins to guess.

There is much unpleasantness as Louisa’s life goes from bad to really very bad, with most of the staff more jailers than nurses, and many of the other patients either insane or also put there by family who for some reason wanted to rid themselves of someone inconvenient.

For that is what Louisa is. She wants to be a doctor. She doesn’t want to get married and have babies. And she loves the wrong kind of person.

That was enough to be put away, back then. (And I’d say it’s not always all that different today, in some ways.)

Louisa is strong, and intelligent, and she eventually makes what needs to happen happen. And she meets someone who helps her and believes in her.

Horrifying, yes. But also so enjoyable. Women needed to stand up for themselves, and they still do.

The Greatest Show of All

Jane Eagland, The Greatest Show of All

Jane Eagland’s latest book for Barrington Stoke gave me a lovely warm glow, in the middle of the night. I woke up and couldn’t sleep, and I wanted something reliably good, and also something I could read to the end, in one easy sitting. And The Greatest Show of All ticks the boxes.

Inspired by Twelfth Night it features siblings, with a girl masquerading as a boy, and she does that classic of rebellious things; she runs away to join a circus.

Crazy about horses, Kitty becomes Kit. There is a lot going on at the circus and soon it seems Kit is at the centre of a couple of conspiracies, as well as in the middle of unrequited love on several counts. An unfriendly clown (how extremely topical!), a tightrope star and more than one horsey boy make for an exciting life.

There is an unexpected, but most welcome, nod to a more modern romantic twist; one which I wouldn’t have minded being taken further.


Wild Song

A little Tempest-uous is one way of describing Jane Eagland’s new book for Barrington Stoke. It’s for teens, it’s dyslexia friendly, and it’s been inspired by Shakespeare. At least I think it has.

Jane Eagland, Wild Song

It’s about Anna who lives on an island with her father, and his assistant and a couple of servants. Everything is ‘fine’ and Anna rather fancies the assistant. She is grateful to him for being so kind to her.

That’s when a young man is washed ashore and almost left for dead. Anna finds out new things from him, and her view of the world changes.

This is nicely romantic and it gets quite exciting when…

I imagine someone who comes fresh to Wild Song will find it intriguing and will hopefully want to read more like it. As for me, I would obviously have liked it to be longer, but there is a reason why it’s not. I want lots of girls who don’t read much to find this and to enjoy it. Maybe even move on to other classic love stories.

Bookwitch bites #77

Vegetable pakora, perhaps. One of my very favourites. Along with those newly discovered chilli parathas we like.

I mentioned the other day how I could see myself wearing a beautiful sari. It’s funny how your mind changes, from one decade to another, thirty years on. The Resident IT Consultant came with Indian relatives, which was very thoughtful of him. It’s pretty exotic to a Swedish peasant like myself.

So, as the happy day drew near, all those years ago, The Indian Aunt suggested we might want something Indian as a wedding present. Perhaps a sari. I felt I would look odd wearing one of those round Brighton, so replied that almost anything else Indian would be absolutely lovely. It was. But you can’t wear an antique embroidered wall hanging, even in Stockport, if you change your mind.

And to be realistic about this, at my age I suspect the draughtiness of the ‘gaps’ in a sari might be a little on the chilli side.

There are books with bits of India in them. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, for instance. And more recently, Jane Eagland’s Whisper My Name. Both are about formerly ‘Indian’ girls who come to England for their education. And I can’t help but feel that whereas we do like the books for what happens once the girls get here, we would quite like some more of India.

Mr Ram Dass makes me think of Art Malik as Mr Amanjit Singh in Upstairs Downstairs. Silly of me, I know. He’s probably past climbing around on roofs.

(And it’s odd how things happen. As I was blogging merrily away on my Indian theme, I ‘got mail.’ It was from Raja Fashions, telling me when they are next in my neck of the woods. What would we wear without them?)

Whisper My Name

‘Pass me that book,’ said Daughter. We’d returned home and she was totally done in, and we were sitting around the tbr pile in companionable exhaustion. ‘That book’ was Whisper My Name, by Jane Eagland, whom we had met at the Lancashire Book of the Year Award earlier in the summer. Daughter was tired, but the book didn’t last long in her hands, so I’d say it was a successful read.

Set in the 1880s, it’s got a lovely flavour of India, despite taking place in London. Meriel has been sent ‘home’ from India after her mother died, because her father couldn’t keep her. She goes to live with her maternal grandfather, who turns out to be weirder than weird.

Meriel isn’t allowed out, and she has to study all the time, and her – wealthy – grandfather measures her every year and keeps the results in a book. One day she rebels a little, and comes into contact with India again, and begins to make friends.

Jane Eagland, Whisper My Name

Through séances (the Victorian era seems to be riddled with them) Meriel discovers something else, something that will change her life even more than the unwanted move to London from India.

I found it a little hard to take to Meriel, and I suspect the reader is meant to see her as a flawed human being, rather than as the perfect literary heroine. But I can’t help feeling that her friend could have had a bigger role to play, and horrible though he was, I wanted to see more of the grandfather, as well.

Like in Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather, it’s interesting to see Victorian England in a different light. And I wouldn’t have minded reading more about India. Jane paints a charming picture of the place where Meriel grew up, which made me greedy for more.

ABBA festival!

First they steal my idea, and then they put it into action on a day when I can’t even enjoy it. Pah.

It’s ABBA. No, not the pickled fish and not even those people who used to sing. I’m talking about the Awfully Big Blog Adventure and the festival they are running this weekend.

Yes, I know. It’s ridiculous. How can you possibly have an online book festival? Can I take pictures of my authors? Can I have my books signed? Are there even any tickets left to all these events, and how do they expect me to get around from one event to the next without a break in-between?

PhotobucketI’m busy today. Very busy. I can’t just sit there and commune with my beloved authors through a computer screen all day long. But I want to. I’ll have to make a timetable of sorts, to see if I can fit in my bestest people that way. Maybe eat with them? (Hey, do you object to crumbs and slurps?)

Just look at that programme!

ABBA festival Saturday

It sort of makes a witch want to skive off for the day. How are they going to pull it off, technically? (My idea was for a normal live kind of in person sort of festival…)

Oh well, see you tomorrow.

Always share your banana

If you don’t, you can’t be sure of where literary history will lead. In this case it always comes back to Preston and Lancashire.

Lancashire Book of the Year 2011

As you well know, Keren David won the Lancashire Book of the Year award, and yesterday we travelled to Preston to see her receive her prize and to hear her speech. It was a good one, and it features UMIST and non-iron fabric for the Royal family and several generations’ worth of romance in her family. And the banana.

Keren David

With space at a premium I can’t tell you the whole story, but rest assured that coincidence is not dead and it really is a small world. And had Keren’s mother not been the type to share bananas, we might not have had When I Was Joe to read and enjoy and to reward with huge cheques (physical size, mostly) and art.

Chris Higgins

Joseph Delaney

This was a good year, with nine out of ten shortlistees  present; C J Skuse, Chris Higgins, Hilary Freeman, Jane Eagland, Jim Carrington, Joseph Delaney, Keris Stainton, Sam Mills and Keren. And as ever, Adèle Geras, overseeing the young members of the jury. Unfortunately, I have only read Keren’s and Keris’ books. Fortunately, those excellent child readers have read every single book on the longlist, and some of them have read and re-read their favourites on the shortlist several times.

Hilary Freeman

Jim Carrington

When the witch and her photographer arrived, Adèle was busy drinking coffee but took us round to meet everyone. To my horror some people had heard of me, which makes you wonder what they had heard. It was lovely to meet super-publicist Nicky for the first time, and now she will be not simply a name at the end of my email line.

County Councillor Geoff Roper

The place was heaving. The place being the plush home of Preston’s councillors. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel important, and those men wandering round with fancy necklaces add to the style. Pleased to see the efficient Sue and Elaine of the SilverDell Bookshop providing books for sale, at this oldest of book awards.

Jake Hope

More than one speaker reminisced about 1987, when the award started, and whereas I can remember much further back than that, I suppose it was quite long ago. Especially if you weren’t born. Super-librarian Jake had dressed to impress, and he certainly did. It’s not just a jacket; it’s a whole suit. Note his ‘cheeky’ 25!

Jane Eagland

C J Skuse

As always, the children spoke about everything to do with the award and the reading, and I’m glad the boys realised that some books might be pink, but the reading of them ‘has to be done’.

Keris Stainton

The authors, too, had to speak, and they pointed out how important it is to have reviews by children, and not just by us boring adults. Awards like these can also save authors’ careers, for which we have to be grateful.

Adèle Geras

Adèle spoke, and she mentioned her predecessor Hazel Townson, who died this year, and who had supervised the readers for 21 years. And finally it was Keren’s turn, and as I’ve mentioned, she spoke of bananas. If I’d been her, I’d have died of nerves by that time, so it’s to her credit that she was both alive and completely lucid. She was pleased to hear the other shortlisted books praised so often, since that made her win even more valuable. It also seems that Keren had always wanted to marry someone from Lancashire. (No need to propose. She’s already married.)

Keren David

The cheque Keren received was beautiful, and so was the work of art by Hayley Welsh, which came in the shape of a defaced book. But it was beautifully done, and seeing as it even had a picture of me, I wholeheartedly approve.

Art by Hayley Welsh

Keren wasn’t the only one to receive prizes, with the children each getting a signed copy of When I Was Joe. And despite her dislike for attention, the hardworking librarian Jean, who is retiring was also on the receiving end of speeches and flowers and a hug from Keren. She admitted to always being bossy. Well, how else do you get something like this award to happen? So, thank you Jean for telling so many dignitaries how and when and where to sit, stand, do, or whatever. They need that kind of thing.

Jean with Keren David

It’s funny how after my last and only presence at these awards two years ago, how many friendly faces I recognised, and who recognised me back. It was like coming home. Julie was another hardworking ‘face’, so it must have been the power of the Js. Jake. Jean. Julie.

Jane Eagland

Joseph Delaney and Jim Carrington

And I talked quite a bit to author Jane (Eagland), so she was another J for the day. Also Joseph and Jim and C J. There was a signing afterwards, and even more afterwards there was that lovely lunch they do so well in Preston.

Then it was time for us to catch trains home in all directions. Luckily Preston offers through trains to my back garden, so there was no need for any broomsticks at all.

Sam Mills

Of all the admirable books yesterday, the one that was praised the most, besides When I Was Joe, was Blackout by Sam Mills. I might have to try and read it.