It is the late 1800s, and a few moments of folly lock together the destinies of four people. Mary, who begins “exceeding ignorant” (apart from what a girl can learn from family mayhem, a dead mother, and a grim stepmother), but who learns more than she’d like to about lust and betrayal in the fine London house where she works as a servant. Eliza, another maid, is Mary’s nemesis – but who is the betrayer and who betrayed? A teacher named Oliver avoids feeling anything, while knowing too well what matters. And then there’s the fostered boy, James, torn away from the only family who cares for him to grow up in the stern confines of a foundling home. What chance does he have without knowing his roots?
In the chaotic way of true history, where the past, present, and future collide, Marthe Jocelyn uses four voices to tell a spellbinding story that brings Victorian London to life and explores emotions, joy, and sorrows that are as current as today’s news.
I took a break from my regular fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal and decided to read a bit of historical fiction. I generally steer clear of historicals, due to a love and passion for (and a degree in) history – I tend to be picky. I am so glad I picked this book up, though. Folly tells the story of four people living in the 1800s who are all connected in some way. It’s a brilliant fictional look into that era, and keeps it’s basis in historical fact.
The characters are done wonderfully, and are very distinct. Not only are their voices easy to keep separate, their personalities are very apparent. Each one has had a different upbringing, and Jocelyn shows that through speech and mannerism – and all keeping wonderfully with the time period. Mary is the (more or less) main character. Each of the others is connected to her in some way. Mary is a country girl with little schooling, but much real-world knowledge. She is quick to pick up new tasks and is a genuine, gentle soul. We don’t see much of the other girl character, Eliza. She’s a maid in the house Mary arrives to work at and is immediately jealous of Mary. She’s stern, proper and a bit flighty (and flirty). Our two male characters are James and Oliver. James is an orphan boy. He is incredibly curious and precocious. He loves to makes lists and is quite intelligent. Oliver is one of James’ teachers. A quiet man with his heart in the right place and a soft spot for the foundling children. By the end of the story you feel connected and invested in these characters, and wish everything could just be better for them all.
I loved the plot set up of the story. Mary and Eliza’s parts take place years before James and Oliver, and all come together in the end. Jocelyn has it set up so that you don’t know how each characters relates to the others until almost the very end of the book. Of course, I had my guesses as I was reading, but I never quite knew for sure. It’s with breathless anticipation that you wait to see if you’re right or wrong in how Oliver and James connect to Mary and Eliza. There were times I was frustrated with everything, and times I was happy for everyone. There is never a lot of background given on the characters or the time period, but enough details are sprinkled throughout the novel that by the end you have a clear picture of who, where and when these people are and live. A few parts did feel a little bit rushed or glossed over; the years passed very fast with only important mile stones being touched on. This can be both a good and bad tactic, but over all, Folly is a solid read with twists, turns and coincidences enough to keep anyone happy and strong characters to lead the plot.
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Thank you to LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.