Review: The Folk Keeper

The Folk KeeperThe Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley

This is the story an orphan girl who learned real early that boys get the better end of the stick. So she cut her hair, changes her name, and passes herself off as a boy. She also, through a mix of natural talent, gossip, and bribery won herself the position of The Folk Keeper. The one person who is in charge of keeping THE FOLK (faeries, brownies, hobgoblins, and the ilk) at bay down in the dark cellar. Suddenly, she is summoned to a strange old man who wants to adopt her. Still insisting she’s a boy, she agrees if she can be the new Folk Keeper of the manor. Looking to hold on to her vision of power by being the Folk Keeper at such a large estate, aspects of herself and her secret powers begin to change. Secrets to her past begin to unfold. It is interesting the way she comes into to her own. The whole story is told in a collection of diary entries.

I really liked this story. This novel takes place in a historical setting where the old magic was alive. The boy we meet at the beginning has quiet a ruthless in his out look on life and very defensive of his position as Folk Keeper. But, pride of position and a chance to increase the power he had created for himself leads him to accept a dying man’s offer. We soon learn that he is a she, hiding in a world that she has created. The boy is a cloak, the hardness a mask. I love the way this book was written. The diary entries serve as a place for Corin/Corinna to tell us about her the hard shell and illuminate the cracks as they appear for us to see and for her to discover. There is some stuff I could say here about lost bits, but I hate to give too much away.

“I tried to speak, but the furniture of my mind had all been rearranged, my words neatly folded and stored out of site.” P36

I really liked the language that Billingsley uses to build her world. Corinna’s got a really great voice and manner of writing for someone who had to bribe a fellow orphan to teach her to read and write.

“Like pieces of a Kaleidoscope, the ladies and gentlemen fell into patterns of color on the Ballroom floor.” P77

This is a great book and one I would recommend. I first heard about it at the Things Mean a Lot (check out her review) blog. Maybe I should say that is the first time it registered. I’ve passed the book almost daily on the book shelves, but never picked it up.


The Blind Contessa’s New Machine (Review)

The Blind Contessa's New Machine: A NovelThe Blind Contessa’s New Machine: A Novel by Carey Wallace

I loved this book and hated it all at the same time. It is a beautiful confession written in such a way that you feel as if you are watching the whole story through a snow globe. That distance combined with Wallace’s wonderful way with words give this slim volume the enchantment of a fairy tale. There is a surreal feel to the characters that could only exist in such story, at once beloved but unattainable. The Blind Contessa’s New Machine is the story of a young woman who is going blind. The novel pays meticulous attention to what she can and can not see painting for the reader lavish and sometime fanciful watercolors of words as the Contessa moves about both in the waking world and that of her dreams.

There is only one soul who seems to understand her – his is a long time friend and fellow dreamer a few years her senior. They both seem to have an easy acceptance of the others eccentricities, and would seem a match except that he is married and she is about to be. I finished this novel with a notebook full of quotes that had to added to my collection and a general dissatisfy feeling as I wanted this to be the fairy tale I’d felt it was in my mind and instead I got the mundane world ending that I suppose was enviable. I am far too much a romantic dreamer myself to be able to easily reconcile this things in my mind. I believe the author herself provided a quote that captures a bit of the feeling I had when I turned the last page.

“She found herself wishing for the Pietro her heart had constructed over the previous years: sure-footed, understanding, and fearless, to come rescue her from Pietro himself as he rambled on at her side. The wish made her dizzy.” P 47

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“What a blight that woman is. Do you know why? I lean towards a malignant fairy at her christening.” p108

This faint invocation of fairy tales made me smile.