Author: Marthe Jocelyn
Page Count: 256 pages
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Genre: historical fiction, young adult
Copy for review provided by Around the World Tours in anticipation of an honest review
50 words or less: Against a backdrop of Victorian England, four people find out that their choices affect other people, that they must control their own destinies, and only by being mindful of themselves will they live happily ever after.
Folly is a book that I discovered entirely through book blogs, and I was excited to land a spot on a tour for it. Despite the kind of unusual looking cover and the strange expression on the cover model's face, this book isn't paranormal in the slightest; rather, it's extremely vivid, detailed historical fiction that combines the brutality of life for working people in this time period with an effervescent hope and desire for a better life.
Mary Finn starts her life living in the country but, upon her father's remarriage after her mother's death, is sent to the city to find work and support herself. A twist of fate lands Mary as a between-stairs maid in a lord's house instead of keeping house for her dour stepmother's presumably equally dour sister. From there she meets Bates, houseboy/horndog and the inexplicable love interest of Eliza, the other maid, who steps into the role of Mary's mentor.
The points of view of Mary and Eliza alternate with those of James, a young orphan who's living in a group home for orphans, and Oliver, one of the teachers of said orphans. I'll give you a hint right now, the dates on each chapter are important and indicate something important about the story and the path to the ultimate resolution. Aaaand that's all I'll say about that.
The living conditions for each of the characters can be startlingly bleak sometimes; it can be hard to remember that survival alone was a lofty goal for many people for a long time (and still is today.) Everyone has to work hard, maintain appearances at all times, and never, ever, ever let any indiscretion become public knowledge, lest they be left to fend for themselves with the rest of society's "undesired elements." This book does a good job of illustrating the vast differences between life in this time period and life in today's world.
In addition to a hearty dose of historical realism, this book also illustrates how a few careless decisions or actions on one person's part can have longstanding repercussions for others. Eliza's actions are the best example of this: in her refusal to accept that Bates, another servant in the house, may just not be that into her, she goes out of her way to snoop and spy on Mary, convinced that Mary is the one who's stolen Bates' heart. Well, she has, but the funny thing is, Mary's heart belongs to someone else, a fact which would have been easy to discern if Eliza had asked instead of going godzilla. What happens next would definitely be a comedy of errors if the results hadn't been so tragic for Mary.
Folly is densely packed with details despite its relatively short length, and each of them is important to the story. While the ultimate resolution of the story is satisfactory and everyone gets what they want in the end, some folks have to wait a long time for their happily-ever-after. This book is definitely one that's off the beaten path, and if the premise sounds like something you'd enjoy I can definitely recommend picking it up.
Overall Grade: A-