Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Folk Keeper - Franny Billingsley

Franny Billingsley's The Folk Keeper is another book that I've read as a result of reading The Wand in the Word - so my thanks to Sheila at Wands and Worlds for mentioning Marcus' book !

The story is told in the form of entries in Corinna's Folk Record, which later serves as her journal. Corinna Stonewall is a fifteen year old orphan and a Folk Keeper for the village of Rhysbridge. She lives in the cellar at Rhysbridge and looks after the Folk, who are malicious creatures which can sour milk, hurt animals, rot plants and crops, and otherwise wreck havoc on a household if they are not satisfied. The job of Folk Keeper is a dangerous one, and Corinna must protect herself against the Folk with various charms and such objects as salt, bread and iron nails amongst other things.

Corinna has been hiding her gender for the past four years (everyone believes her name is Corin) in order to be a Folk Keeper as women are never Folk Keepers, and she preferred the job to becoming a drudge. She has some strange talents and abilities too: she always knows the time exactly and her hair grows two inches every night.

One day a dying man named Lord Merton sends his wife to Rhysbridge to fetch her and he convinces Corinna to be the Folk Keeper at Marblehaugh Park near Cliffsend. Once there, Corinna befriends Finian, son of Lady Alicia, whose husband employed Corinna. She also finds out more about herself and her past, discovering that she has even more secrets than she knew.

Corinna is a fiercely independent young woman for whom power is important and she is determined not to go back to the life of drudgery she had before she became a Folk Keeper. She is fairly ruthless - she tells Finian:

"This must be your business," I said. "Discover what those around you love best. Then, if they forbid you from doing as you choose, you have a hold on them. You can threaten their dearest treasures."

She also makes a point of taking revenge on people who anger her, from a valet to Lord Merton's cousin, Sir Edward. But I have to say I found the ending slightly disappointing - it seemed like too much of a romantic cop-out, to me. Otherwise, though, this is an intriguing and interesting book, that is very well written.

4 comments:

Sheila said...

Sounds like one I'll want to add to my TBR. Franny Billingsley is one that I hadn't heard of before reading The Wand in the Word, so I'm glad to know more. Thanks for the review!

Michele said...

Nor had I heard of Ms Billingsley - and I was quite surprised to find the library had The Folk Keeper, given how much trouble I've had finding books by certain other American authors in the library !

It's definitely an interesting book - and I'd be keen to hear anyone else's thoughts on the ending...

Camille said...

I read this when it first came out. I thought it was an original idea to put this particular folk legend into a novel for young people. Not a casual read but very very interesting and full of atmosphere.

Michele said...

What did you think of the ending Camille ? To me it seemed a little forced, for the sake of a "happy ever after"...