The Wild Girl
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Real People
I just want to give upfront trigger warnings for sexual abuse, child abuse and rape.
The Wild Girl is the story of Dortchen Wild, a young girl living with her parents and her sisters in Hesse-Cassel when Napoleon was rampaging his way through Europe. When she is only twelve she meets and pretty much immediately falls in love with her best friend’s older brother Wilhelm Grimm. He and his brother though dirt poor (like everyone) are putting together a book of old tales that as we all know will last the ages.
First off I have to say Forsyth is a wonderful writer and she really spins out this story. She does a good job with Dortchen’s sisters and related secondary characters making them spark and giving them enough importance to make you care. Also this is not a time period I know that much about. When I read she lived in Hesse-Cassel I was like, ‘Hey, that was a place! I learned about it in history class!’ That was about what I knew. Obviously I’ve read the Grimm brothers but it was interesting to see how this behind the scenes. Dortchen and her sisters and their old maid contribute a lot to the tales.
It doesn’t go into too much detail with the stories and you get little hints here and there. A lot of what you get are the darker version of the tales which when published don’t do that well and the Grimm brothers get pressed to make them more “friendly.” So that was always a thing.
This is really Dortchen’s story though. Her father is presented as a horrible person from the beginning but at a certain point the story takes a turn and it becomes painfully obvious not only is he verbally abusive toward Dortchen he’s targeting her for something worse. Forsyth really ups the feeling of dread as anyone or anything that could help Dortchen is gotten rid of one by one. Even Dortchen knows what is coming and she’s powerless to stop it.
It was really hard to read at that point not only because you so want someone to stick a knife through this guys heart before the inevitable but because after you can see Dortchen disappearing. She begins as a brave, fearless, selfless girl whose always helping people and she winds up a frightened woman afraid to touch or love and riddled with nightmares even after her monster is gone.
I found myself really moved by her story and her relationship with Wilhelm, as they grew and changed, felt very real especially under the circumstances. It really was a story that unsettled me and I thought a very good depiction of the effects of abuse. So in the author’s notes at the end when Forsyth says she settled on that as one of the main reasons so many years pass before Wild and Grimm are actually together I admit I was a little put off.
Despite that I think Forsyth did a really great job of bringing this character and this romance to life and I’ll be checking out more of her writing in the future.
Recommend: Yes. Dortchen Wild is one of my favorite characters of the year. Just take into account the issues that come up in the story