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5.0 out of 5 stars Psychological suspense, family mystery on deserted isle
"What does it mean to lose one's mind? Where does it go? What is sane when the world is mad by contrast?" So reads a 1918 entry in the diary of Rae Newborn's Great-Uncle Desmond, the first builder of the "Folly" or great house on a lonely 150 acre island in the San Juan chain in the Pacific Northwest.
Rae, an internationally known expert in...
Published on Aug. 9 2002 by Silver Springer

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars Wake Me Up When It's Over.
If I had been given this book to read without knowing the author's name, and when finished, was told that she was Laurie R. King, I would not have believed it. I've experienced and appreciated her immense talent and versatility across several genres, but I can hear her brilliantly and deftly rendered Holmes snapping, "Good God, Russell, are you daft? Put that book down...
Published on July 6 2002 by D.R. Yonkin


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4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh As A Daisy, Aug. 4 2003
By 
Untouchable (Sydney, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Folly (Paperback)
I found this to be a compelling book of renewal, both material and spiritual. We join the story as 52 year old Rae newborn is waving goodbye to her family after being dropped off on a deserted island. On this island she plans to rebuild a house that had originally been built by her great uncle. She also hopes to rebuild herself after fighting her way through severe depression.
During construction of the house we learn all about Rae's past, the reasons behind her depression and her fears. We also learn about her great uncle Desmond and the mystery surrounding his life and death.
But while everything appears to be progressing well, we get a sense that something is not quite right. Someone appears to be trying to find her and she continues to get the feeling she is being watched, but is never sure whether that's part of her mental problems or that it's actually happening.
Suspense builds steadily with some remarkable discoveries taking place. I found the last 100 pages or so were filled with unexpected twists and revelations. This is a very enjoyable book containing a terrific story of discovery and renewal coupled with a very interesting mystery and tense finale.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing story about a woman recovering from trauma., Aug. 12 2002
This review is from: Folly (Hardcover)
Rae Newborn is a 50-something woman who has struggled with mental illness virtually all of her adult life. However, after she is attacked in an attempted rape a few short weeks after her beloved husband and young daughter are killed in a car accident, she goes over the edge, spending months in a mental institution. When she finally begins to emerge on the path to recovery, she makes a decision to head for an isolated, unhabited (fictional) island off the coast of Washington state. Years before, Rae's uncle had come to the same island for peace and solitude and had built himself a home; when his near-completed house burnt almost to the ground, he disappeared. Rae, formerly a well-known furniture-maker and artist, resolves to rebuild her Uncle Desmond's house despite how "crazy" this might seem to others, including her grown daughter. The book mostly details Rae's thoughts and reflections as she works on her house in solitude, although she receives occasional visits from her supply boat, the local sheriff, and a female park ranger. Interspersed throughout the story are selections from Rae's own journal as well as that of her Uncle Desmond, which she uncovers in the course of her labors. The theme is that of a woman building her future (literally) while still recovering from her traumatic past. There's a few surprising twists thown in at the end, although the climatic conflict of the book was over quickly and a little too neatly. Other than that, however, the book was an enjoyable and engaging read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Psychological suspense, family mystery on deserted isle, Aug. 9 2002
This review is from: Folly (Paperback)
"What does it mean to lose one's mind? Where does it go? What is sane when the world is mad by contrast?" So reads a 1918 entry in the diary of Rae Newborn's Great-Uncle Desmond, the first builder of the "Folly" or great house on a lonely 150 acre island in the San Juan chain in the Pacific Northwest.
Rae, an internationally known expert in wordworking, plans to recreate Uncle Desmond's house using only a picture taken 70 years ago. Subject to depression her whole life, and recovering from a complete breakdown after a drunken driver killed her husband and 9 year old daughter, Rae comes to Folly Island after a year in a mental institution. Rae's journey to Folly has come to mirror Desmond's--an effort to rebuild his house in an attempt to rebuild her life.
Desmond, considered a misfit after physical and psychological injuries sustained in World War I, escapes from the Newborn's oppressive Boston household to the freedom of the beautiful Sanctuary Islan, which was renamed Folly Island after Desmond's building attempt. Desmond's history comes out during Rae's stay on the island and she is particularly troubled with what seems to be a family history of madness.
She struggles to overcome her own panic and fears on the island, all the while feeling someone is watching her. Her lawyer gets a message to her that someone paid thugs to attack her two years ago--the final event that triggered her breakdown. She also is told the her greedy son-in-law is trying to declare her mentally incompetent, so he can get control of her sizable fortune. Then things begin to disappear around her camp, disrupting the stability her almost finished house has given her. Her past and present family mystery deepens when she finds the 70 year old skeleton of Desmond in a cave near the house. Who killed Desmond and why? Who is still stalking her? Are they trying to trigger another breakdown or suicide attempt?
Despite her isolation, Rae makes friends with a number of locals: a handsome sheriff, an infuriatingly perky but well meaning ranger and a shady but reliable boatman is her lifeline to the outside world. A beacon in an otherwise stormy life is Rae's granddaughter Petra, the only family member she feels close to. During Petra's visit to the island, Rae must call upon her inner strength and resources to protect them from an outside foe focused on revenge.
While a departure from Laurie R. King's Mary Russell or Kate Martinelli series, Folly is a chilling novel featuring an unforgettable heroine and her struggle over her internal and external demons. Highly recommended.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Wake Me Up When It's Over., July 6 2002
By 
This review is from: Folly (Paperback)
If I had been given this book to read without knowing the author's name, and when finished, was told that she was Laurie R. King, I would not have believed it. I've experienced and appreciated her immense talent and versatility across several genres, but I can hear her brilliantly and deftly rendered Holmes snapping, "Good God, Russell, are you daft? Put that book down before it renders you unconscious!" In short, this was one of the most boring books I've ever read. Details are important in getting to know a character and what makes them tick, their passions, eccentricities, their psychology, and there is some of that, but not enough. Instead, Ms. King spends seemingly endless pages focusing closer and closer on the main character's craft of woodworking/sculpting-cum-housebuilding. After getting a little tidbit of character insight, the reader is then forced to read detailed descriptions of tools: what they are, their history, what they look like, how they feel, what they sound like, what they look like hanging from a belt, and so on. This method of extrapolation is extended to all aspects of whatever can be done with tools, guns, camping equipment, and even severe depression, on and on and on, until you get to the next tiny piece of succinct but well written detail that makes you think, "At last, we get to the real reason for being here!". This doesn't happen, at least for me. Taking a cue from the author's thanks to some "courageous individuals", whose struggles with mental illness she apparently tapped, her attempts to convey what it's like to be severely depressed sounds exactly as if she's writing, or rewriting, what someone tried to convey. As a psychotherapist, I've seen that this is pretty much next-to-impossible to do, as people struggling with such challenges also struggle with the fact that they can never quite explain what it's like to someone else. Hence, the attempt to instill the main character with convincing affect falls short. Maybe that was the author's intention.
Some reviewers like to describe this as "slow starting". This is true, but it never ends. I can compare it best to the scientific cliché that asks us to imagine taking all the space away between the molecules of say, a redwood tree, and you end up with a sliver of wood you can barely discern. Take away all this "filler" in this story, and you end up with characters as substantial as toothpicks.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of King's best efforts!, June 18 2002
By 
Cathy Wright (Port Ludlow, WA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Folly (Paperback)
Having read and loved both the Mary Russell and Kate Martinelli series' by King, I expected a similar read with Folly, but I was surprised and pleased to see her go in an entirely different direction with this astonishing, heartbreaking and ultimately victorious work of fiction. While King's series work plots complex mysteries with strong characters, Folly is more a character study, with a 50-ish woman in the unlikely role of heroine.
Rae Newborn has endured tragedies and loss that would destroy a weaker woman, and while she has faltered, she has not fallen. Instead she finds redemption in a house-building project that she tackles alone, on a desolate northwest Washington State island. King uses the metaphor of house construction to underline Rae's rebuilding of her shattered psyche, one layer at a time; she gives older women readers insight and hope as she slowly tears down the old, then begins constructing the new, developing Rae's muscles and physical stamina to parallel her slowly evolving mental and emotional health.
I loved the character of Rae Newborn for her own life's "folly" of attempting the incredible task of building a house. I cried for her tragedies and losses and suicide attempts. I was angry at her family members (like I would be at my own) if they could not, or would not, see the person beneath the title of Mother or Daughter, Aunt or Niece, etc. I cheered at the characters who fought to befriend the frightened, desperate Rae when she tried so hard to stand in isolation rather than chance loss once more.
Mostly I hated the last pages of this book, because they WERE the last pages and I would have to leave Rae Newborn, when I wanted to stay with her on that island, or wherever life took her, forever. She became my sister, my friend, my hero.
While Folly contains mysterious pieces of a soon-to-be-solved puzzle and some edge of the seat suspense, it can't be pigeonholed as just another Mystery or Thriller. It is so much more! Don't let the words of those who believe themselves critics deny you this unforgettable story - if you truly love good fiction you will enjoy this novel while you read it, and for years to come as you recall its lessons, its hope and its beauty.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Laurie King, March 2 2002
By 
V. B. Earle (pittsburgh, pa USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Folly (Hardcover)
Laurie King continues to deliver quality in her most recent Folly. Rae Newborn escapes to the San Juan Islands in the Pacific northwest after a family tragedy that culminates in mental collapse. In a last ditch attempt to rebuild her spirit Rae Newborn takes on the monumental task of rebuilding a burned-out house she inherits from a mysterious relative. The theme of tension necessary to build a house is mirrored in the tension of this story. Is Rae Newborn's paranoia wholly a result of her mental instability, or is there real danger lurking on the island of Folly? This woman's tragedy and her heroic confrontation of depression, nature, the monumental task of house building strike a deep resonance. Through her we meet the quirky residents of the San Juan Islands, we explore her murky family history, and we share her innermost paranoia. The twist at the end, although not unexpected and not as effective as it could be, nonetheless works to give a satisfactory ending to this good story. As always Laurie King doesn't stint her readers, but instead presents them with a provocactive story thinly disguised as a mystery. A good read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars More psychological than thriller, but worth investigating, Sept. 7 2001
By 
Stephen Dedman (Bayswater, WA Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Folly (Hardcover)
Folly opens with an excerpt from a dictionary, defining a folly as (among other things) ´¿an often extravagant picturesque building erected to suit a fanciful taste´¿, which is a fair summation of the novel ´¿ though unlike some follies, this one is fairly well put together.
King does a wonderful job with the ´¿psychological´¿ part of ´¿psychological thriller´¿, capturing both Rae´¿s inner strength and terrors extremely well. For a thriller, though, Folly is very unevenly paced. King seems to have fallen in love with her setting and the characters who live there, and things move rather slowly in the first 340 pages. This gives the reader plenty of time to think about what´¿s likely to happen next; I wasn´¿t even slightly surprised when Rae discovered a body or when she solves the murder. In the last 60 pages, however, King introduces more characters with very little warning, and drops you into an action scene almost as though it were an afterthought. It´¿s a good ending, with some nice twists, but a little more tension would have helped it.
Fortunately, King has a beautifully picturesque style of writing, and her characters are interesting enough ´¿ and, for the most part, sympathetic enough ´¿ to keep you reading even when not much is happening. The plot is nowhere near as complex or obscure as, say, a Minette Walters novel, but it´¿s much easier to like King´¿s characters; even her villains and lowlifes tend to have a redeeming feature or two.
Folly may not be perfectly constructed, but King has chosen her raw materials ´¿ words and characters ´¿ very well, and the end result is extremely pleasing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars building a world in time, July 5 2001
By 
Julia Walker (NY Finger Lakes) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Folly (Hardcover)
King's newest novel is everything that the other reviewers claim, good and bad. (Except that it's NOTHING like Mary Higgins Clark, whose works I had to ban from my Women's Murder Mystery class after finding them 98% romance and 2% mystery.) But in "Folly," King does use obvious symbolism, long digressions, unexpected and non-chronological flash-backs, bleeds a bit into romance, and lacks a clear articulation or resolution of the immortal "who dunnit?" Or at least "why?"
But it is a very good book.
Unlike the books of her Kate Martinelli series or Mary Russell series, King's newest novel is only incidentally a mystery, although almost none her other books are _simply_ mysteries. But in "Folly" there's certainly fearful suspense artfully manipulated and enough problems to be solved to provide a satisfactory, if not perfectly neat resolution. The plot's chronology is complexly presented, so it's no book to read when you have to put it down for a day then pick it up for thirty minutes before bedtime. But the focus on single and mutably complex main character (however unfortunately allegorical her name) justifies that.
While I am a great fan of King's work, I wouldn't claim that she can't write a less-than-wonderful book -- see "To Play the Fool" or "The Moor," a book that gave me an even worse headache than the Dorothy L. Sayers' exercise with Scottish fish and train timetables. But this book IS, in many ways, wonderful. The metaphor of a woman rebuilding herself as she rebuilds a house may be as obvious as "new born" and "sanctuary," but that doesn't make it any less compelling -- see Homer or Virgil or Dante, also writers with obvious controlling metaphors. The point is that the metaphor works, and as it works, becomes something larger than a simple comparison.
King's sense of place is exquisitely portrayed here. Not just the island upon which Rae lives, but the whole eco-system of the San Juan's is a feast for the reader. She makes a world I'd want to walk into, making it real with attention to plants and rocks and birds and mud, and the ebb and flow of wind and water, as well as with the larger outlines and the more ambiguous ambience of a community made up of islands and a population both dependent on and resentful of tourists. But aside from Rae, the island itself is the main character, and one of King's most interesting characters. Here I'm reminded of Mary Stewart's early novels that blend mystery, travelogue, and (yes) romance so effectively that, reading them as a teen, I fell in love with those settings, a love that out-lasted my memory of the characters or plots. Visiting Delphi, Avignon and environs, the Isle of Skye as an adult, I've met other women travelers who were there for the same reason. King's islands have that effect, making me seriously consider a trip to that area -- something entirely new for me.
So it's a book that can metamorphose the reader in many ways. The subject of depression -- which I'd dreaded after reading the reviews -- is actually affirmative as King crafts it in the struggle of Rae. And the art and love of wood is an unexpected but powerful gift that the book brings to the reader with world enough and time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Anticipation and Gratification, May 8 2001
By 
Amazon Customer (Baltimore, Maryland USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Folly (Hardcover)
I have read all of Laurie King's books and actually waited impatiently for the publication of "Folly." King seems to be many authors in one body. Her various series of books, all good, stress different writing talents. Consistently however she is a master of character development. She also doesn't hesitate surprising you occasionally by introducing suddenly a fact about a character that you thought you knew well -- but didn't.
Other reviews have outlined the plot of "Folly." I disagree with those that feel the plot was overburdened or that not enough issues were resolved by the end of the book. There are unresolved stories continuing every day in all of our lives. I feel comfortable knowing that the relationships that were not resolved in the pages of "Folly" are still out there continuing to a conclusion. The characters are real enough to let you do that.
I was not disappointed when I finally got my hands on the book and enjoyed entering the life of Rae and wondering with her whether she was still in the grasp of mental illness or whether there were people watching and there was danger lurking somewhere behind her. I can't really compare "Folly" directly with other King publications. Again she provides us with a new approach to story telling for her. The mystery is there just as in her other books -- but the presentation is different.
My only regret was that I didn't control my urge to read the book until I went on vacation. I longed for a good book to read in peaceful surroundings. This book is worth a read -- as are all of King's previous works. If you haven't read the Mary Russell series ( a totally different experience) you should.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Folly/Sanctuary? Not quite--, April 13 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Folly (Hardcover)
This venture into the world of clinical depression is also an overburdened plot with too many incomplete digressions.
The protagonist, Rae Newborn, is a fascinating character, and her struggles with mental illness well developed. However, the villans of the piece seem to be fathers. Rae's grandfather, her father, her son-in-law (father of her granddaughter), Rae's first husband, and the abusive fathers of the "vanished" children are the demons whose influence causes pain, death, and misery. Although Rae's second husband (Alan) is supposed to be a "good" father, he is unable to "fill the black hole" in his son by a former marriage.
The subplots and sub-subplots complicate the book and leave the reader with some confusion. What happens between Jerry and Nikki (the sheriff and the park ranger)? What about Jerry's brother, Allen? And the disappearing (vanished) children who are victims of their fathers' abuse?
The book is worth reading, and some parts of it are lyrical and lovely. However, it is surely not King's best work and not nearly so much a psychological thriller as a study of being, literally and figurately, "new-born" after depression and trauma.
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Folly
Folly by Laurie R. King (Paperback - May 28 2002)
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