Author: Marthe Jocelyn
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
When I first heard of Folly I was...intrigued...to say the least. You don't see too much historical fiction in young-adult these days. Especially Dickensian historical fiction. The total, out-of-the box idea attracted me, though. Not to mention Marthe actually wrote this for family history reasons. A book inspired by your family history? Now I'm interested.
Mary Finn lives a life of squalor with her family. She's the mother to the children and takes care of her father, all because of a birthing accident long ago that left them alone. But when her father remarries, and to a woman that isn't as kind as her mother, things get different. Mary gets sent away to work at an inn...and eventually moves on to another place not connected to her stepmother. There, she meets Eliza, a girl with problems of attraction, and Mr. Bates, who would rather show his affections to Mary than anyone else...Making Eliza very jealous.
James Nelligren is an orphan, picked up by a loving family. For his first six years, he feels utterly at home. Exactly where he's supposed to be. But when he turns six, he gets carted off to the Foundling house, where orphans are returned to get schooling and shelter and prepare for the world. But James can barely stand to be away from his mother...especially with all of the mean schoolboys.
Folly is a novel that explores the viewpoints of four different people: Mary, James, and two people that touch their lives; Eliza, and Oliver, a school teacher at the Foundling house. These characters make up a dim yet hopeful tapestry inspired by the inner workings of London and its poorest of alleys and backstreets. Mary is a protagonist of practical intelligence and simple yearnings that really touches on what its like to live your life day-to-day. Her eventual affair with a stable boy at the soldiers barracks and her handling of the situation was very honest and heartbreaking. She's the kind of girl you hope will survive. James is harder to relate with for the first half of the book, because he's a younger character, though as he grows he connects better. Eliza and Oliver both have their uses as characters, though their chapters are more to increase motive and explain insight than to really capture them. I liked Oliver well enough, but I found Eliza to be a tad two-dimensional in her wants.
Writing wise, you could not ask for a better book. Each character had their own differences in thinking that kept me on my feet - and the voice from getting stale. London was perfectly imagined for me, and I found every setting to be both fun to picture and disgusting. Jocelyn's writing style is raw and open, but has a style that makes it feel like a tale being told around a fireplace. The plot was a disappointment in some ways and good in others. The focus wasn't so much on Mary's affair with a boy - which the flap claims prominently. Rather, it was about her life and why she went to such things. James' place is eventually reasoned out, though some will be more in the dark with it than others. It's not really meant to be a big secret, but if you're like me, you may end up reading a while before you realize why we're going into the eyes of a six year old orphan ten years after Mary's life. The ending was nice and, while not really inspired, gave a nice feeling of hope in the dreary setting it was a part of. The ultimate themes of parental love and what it does and doesn't mean, the way one must always find survival within what seems to be a hopeless world, and what its like to grow up in a position not so grandeur, are very universal, and ultimately reflect very well on the book as a whole.
Marthe Jocelyn has both written something that everyone should read and that, perhaps, no one but herself is meant to read. The inspiration from her familial ties to the character is obvious once you read the author's note, and it is in many ways a way for her exploration to a happy ending to one of her family's hardships. But, it holds a lot of things readers of any type should learn about. The writing is really superb as well, and while I didn't find the plot too exciting, and some of the characters to be easier to relate to than others, it was a read that I will remember for quite some time, and if you enjoy historical fiction, or the work of Charles Dickens, I can't highly recommend this simple view of two people fighting their way to redemption enough.
Cover Comments: AMAZING COVER. Hands down. It looks like Mary. It covers the book's themes. It's dark and raw and...perfect. Even the without the dust cover, it looks good. Spiky webbing is on the spine. This cover just wins.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Copy: Given to me by Marthe and her publicist (Thanks guys!)