On My Bookshelf: Folly by Marthe Jocelyn

February 15, 2016

In Folly by Marthe Jocelyn, two plucky youngsters navigate Victorian London. James, an orphan, must survive the cold, unfeeling Foundling Hospital and Mary, pushed out of her home by a jealous stepmother, must learn the ins and outs of household employment. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: Three fates intertwine in this moving and passionate love story set in Victorian London.

Mary Finn: country girl, maid to a lord in London

Caden Tucker: liar, scoundrel, and heart's delight

James Nelligan: age six, tossed into a herd of boys

When Mary Finn falls into the arms of handsome Caden Tucker, their frolic changes the course of her life. What possesses her? She's been a girl of common sense until now. Mary's tale alternates with that of young James Nelligan, a new boy in an enormous foundling home.

In Folly, Marthe Jocelyn's breathtaking command of language, detail, and character brings Victorian London to life on every page, while the deep emotions that illuminate this fascinating novel about life-changing moments are as current as today's news.

In Folly by Marthe Jocelyn, two plucky youngsters navigate Victorian London. James, an orphan, must survive the cold, unfeeling Foundling Hospital and Mary, pushed out of her home by a jealous stepmother, must learn the ins and outs of household employment. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.Why I liked it: Folly falls into my favorite genres to read, young adult literature and historical fiction. The novel is set in the late 1800s in England, much of it taking place in London, and the dialogue is so well written that you can hear the twangy London accents of the characters. The novel has two separate plot lines that come together in the end in a way that was completely unexpected to me. Had I been paying closer attention to the dates that begin every chapter I might not have been so surprised.

Both the characters and the plot would remind you of a Charles Dickens novel. James is essentially an orphan, abandoned by his mother as an infant, raised by a loving foster mother until the age of six, then deposited at the Foundling Hospital, a sort of large scale orphanage and just one step up from the infamous poorhouses/workhouses of the city. Mary Finn is part of a large family, whose mother died while giving birth to the last sibling, leaving Mary to cook and clean and care for them all until her father remarries. Her new stepmother quickly sends her out of the house and off to work. Jealousy strikes again when the older maid in the house where Mary is employed misinterprets the identity of Mary's love interest. Both Mary and James are plucky characters, always trying to make the best of their miserable situations.


Classroom application: This would be an appropriate addition to a high school classroom library (there are some scenes that would be a little sexy for middle school). The novel could be used in a genre study of historical fiction or as a starting point for a research project on the history of the foster care system.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Folly for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



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