Folly is an historical novel that takes place in the late 1800s. The last review I did was The Vespertine, which took place in the same time period, but what a contrast. Vespertine is about high society, dances, fancy gowns, courting, and the quest for the perfect mate. Folly's main characters are both the poorest of the poor.
Mary has been put out of her house after her mother dies and her father remarries. She basically is no longer wanted, and is sent away to be a chamber maid. James is an orphan. James lived in a rural home with a family for the first five or six years of his life. Then he was sent to the Foundling Hospital in London to be educated.
These two stories are told in alternating chapters, and the story jumps back and forth ten years. At first, there are so many characters, narrators, and settings that it is a bit confusing. The first chapter is the "end" of the book, and all this makes it a little bit difficult to settle in to the story. I think if you stick it out, you will be satisfied. I think maybe I was just slow, but it took me until almost the end of the book before I figured out the relationship between Mary and James.
The setting is well described. The constant fog, and mud, and dirt of London almost made me cold. Well, it was about 10 degrees outside while I was reading this, so that may have contributed too. The plight of these characters, as well as the secondary characters is so depressing. There really is no way to better oneself. The rules are strictly adhered to or you are out on the street. My heart broke for Mary especially, because every time it seemed like she might get a break, something happened to throw her back into misery.
This isn't a book for everyone. I love historical fiction--if you aren't a fan, then you will want to pass on this one, because it is strictly that genre. Well, there's some romance and heartbreak, but that isn't the main purpose of this book. You also need to be able to put up with all the introduction of setting and character, but for a 1800s history fan, this is worth the time.
One last note. The cover is what drew me to this book. I'm not sure what it has to do with the story, though. It is beautiful and interesting.