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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on September 8, 2015
Authentic and compelling characters moving back and forth in time to a suspenseful and ultimately satisfying conclusion. Ms. King's writing is as beautiful as ever, and the undertones of male and female strength, resilience and survival in the face of conflict -- whether family or wartime -- gives this story remarkable depth.
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on July 4, 2004
I have read the first two of the Mary Russel series before I read this one. I like this one much better. The Mary Russel series is good. However, I can't help feeling that Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle is probably NOT as King depicts him. Folly is a stand-alone novel. At first I had my doubts because depression/suicide is not exactly my favorite subject matter. However, the book is absorbing. Despite the fact that I thought I would not be able to empathize with the protagonist at the beginning, I couldn't help becoming interested in her plight as the story unfolded. King is a good story-teller. Much more so in Folly than in the Mary Russel series. She can probably cut some of Desmond's diary entries shorter, however. Philosophizing on fear or solitude or whatever gets a bit boring at times. I found myself skipping over paragraphs of it towards the end.
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on March 5, 2004
WOW! I love the way the story slowly unfolds, increasing in depth and mystery. I've visited the San Juans twice and envied Rae's sojurn there, although not during winter or roughing it. I highly recommend this book, although I don't think it's the thriller others did. Very good story, great characters, good mystery about Uncle Desmond, and some suspense at the end. Laurie King is an intelligent writer.
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on November 5, 2003
Rae Newborn, an internationally famous woodworker, moves to a remote island to rebuild her great-uncle's house. Isolated and paranoid, with only a tenuous hold on sanity, Rae has the "skin-crawling feeling of being watched." Well, just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean people aren't watching you. Laurie King's Folly is a beautifully written, rich psychological thriller. (King is also the author of, among a slew of other things, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the excellent first book in a series about Sherlock Holmes' life in retirement.)
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on August 4, 2003
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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on May 13, 2003
This is one of the best books I've read in recent months. I was absorbed about the story of a woman recovering from a breakdown who goes to live on an island and rebuild the house on it. Are her terrors real or is someone else on the island?
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on August 12, 2002
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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on August 9, 2002
"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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on July 6, 2002
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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on June 18, 2002
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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