Special $11.98 (Regular price: $15.99)
Publisher: Tundra Books & Wendy Lamb Books
Reviewer: Melissa on December 30, 2010
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
It’s the late 1800s, where a few moments of folly have the power to change the lives of others. Mary, who has always been a sensible, young, country girl, works as a maid in London and learns more than she’d like about the dangers of lust and betrayal. Eliza is another maid, who’s own sense of rivalry with Mary leads to problems for them both as the story progresses. A teacher named Oliver, who does his best to avoid feeling anything, even when he knows what matters most. And finally James, a child who is torn away from his foster family to grow up in the confines of an orphanage and wants, more than anything, to know his roots. In a story where the past, present, and future collide, the plot of Marthe Jocelyn‘s Folly is a complicated but ultimately, rewarding story based on the real founding hospital that the author’s grandfather was left as a nine-month-old baby.
Without knowing very much about this novel, other than that it was a historical YA tale set in Victorian England, I was nevertheless drawn to it. Why? I fell in love with the cover design, which depicts a beautiful redhead girl, whose pale complexion took on the look of marble at the hands of the designer. The image conveys the beauty and fragile ties that bind each of the first person narrators in the story for me…once I knew understood more about the novel’s plot, so I think it’s the perfect look for this story. But what about the narrative itself?
Jocelyn weaves together four very distinct points of view and four different time periods (1876-1878, 1884, 1888, and 1893) to bring this novel to fruition. At the beginning, I didn’t understand how the different voices and times fit together. I thought how does Mary Finn, a woman who lives between 1876 and 1878, have anything to do with James Nelligan of 1884. For some people, I imagined that the constant shifts in voice and time could be distracting, especially when it isn’t clear how the characters will tie together. However, I personally found the characters of Mary and James quite endearing, especially Mary’s concern and love for her siblings and James systematized, list-making. While there are many aspects of the plot that I may not remember after time has past, it is these small details that the author has thrown in about the characters that one can’t help but love.
As the novel progressed and Oliver’s voice was added to the mix, his connection to James as a student at the foundling school and the similarities in their character made me wish along with James that he could be the long lost father he never knew. As for Eliza, I didn’t really like her character as much, but three out of four isn’t half bad, right?
By the time I reached the end of the novel, however, Jocelyn definitely tied together all the narrative threads. While some readers claimed it was a tearjerker, it didn’t affect me as much as some other novels I’ve read recently. However, ultimately, for me, the novel worked, but I know that not everyone who read Folly enjoyed it. Some people claimed that it started out really slow and they just couldn’t get into it. Since I questioned the choice of narrators at the beginning, I can understand where some of the other readers are coming from, but ultimately, the characters in this novel and their idiosyncrasies won me over. I hope they win you over too.
Buy Folly today!