“Somehow I knew there were a gulch between what got writ down about history and what were remembered by the people who went along living it.” In this hip hist. fic. about Victorian London, Marthe Jocelyn successfully channels the authentic voices of the ordinary people who “went along living” history, and whose stories are just as interesting as those famous folks who end up in all the textbooks. It’s 1877, and fifteen-year-old Mary has been sent away by her humorless potato-faced stepmother to find work. She secures a position in the scullery of a grand manor, where her fresh-faced innocence catches the roving eye of Bates the butler, and stirs envy in the bitter heart of parlor maid Eliza. A failed romance with a fickle groom ends in the unthinkable, and Mary learns the hard way that “Love is not for the likes of us, belowstairs.” What price will she have to pay for her folly? Flash-forward to 1884, where six-year-old orphan James Nelligan has been taken from his foster family and placed in the Coram Foundling Home, where he is taught that he is a “progeny of sin. It is therefore your duty to devote yourselves to goodness and servitude.” Under that dire legacy, he must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of hunger, bullies and strict headmasters. Still, he remains hopeful that one day he will be reunited with his foster mother, and keeps an eye out for the man who might be his biological father. How these two souls are related will soon become clear to quick-thinking readers, but what is masterful is how Jocelyn weaves the two stories together into a working class opera of hope and despair, adding the soprano of Eliza’s spiteful voice, and the pragmatic tenor of Oliver Chester, one of James’s teachers and a foundling himself. You might also want to check out some of Jocelyn’s other under the radar reads. Trust me, she’s the awesomest author you aren’t reading, and the time to change that is NOW.
Folly by Marthe Jocelyn