THE FOLK KEEPER by Franny Billingsley
Released: 2003 (in the UK)
Review Format: Paperback
Source: Bloomsbury, with thanks!
Corinna Stonewall is fifteen years old and an orphan. She is also Rhysbridge Foundling Home's Folk Keeper - a difficult and dangerous job which consists of looking after and controlling 'the Folk'.
The Folk are spiteful, maverick and savage creatures. They spoil the milk, terrify the livestock and threaten all manner of malicious deeds unless pacified by gifts of cream, salt pork and similar luxuries.
But there are many questions about Corinna. Who are her parents? Why does her hair grow two inches a night? Why does Corinna always feel drawn to the sea and long for the sweet taste of fish?
Synopsis from the book cover.
The Folk Keeper is set sometime in the past when we travelled by horse and coach and villages grew and raised their own food … and people had to worry about controlling ‘The Folk’. Corinna, the main character, cuts off her beautiful long hair, wears trousers and masquerades as male adolescent, Corin. Only males can be Folk Keepers and this is what Corinna, now known as Corin, wants to do with her life. She’s secretly listened into the conversations of other Folk Keepers, bribed secret lessons from some of the boys at the orphanage where she lives and taught herself everything she knows. I found Corin to be a smart and amusing character who wasn’t about to let anyone get the better of her and I was totally under her spell after just a couple of chapters.
The Folk Keeper is written as journal entries Corin makes in her Folk Record. The writing is very whimsical and the sentence structure is a little different from usual and can be quite difficult to take in at some points, with a lot of the writing as short, stunted sentences. I did occasionally get a little confused, especially if I’d been interrupted for any reason and I had to go back a page or two and read it again, but all in all, this was a fascinating little book.
I was desperate to find out what exactly The Folk were and I loved reading the Folklore and picking up bits of information Corin noted in her journal. What kind of creatures were these ‘Folk’ and how come they ate so much and caused mayhem to the animals and crops, especially on feast days? Why did the posh family want to adopt her? Why did she feel so ‘at home’ near the sea? I had so many questions almost immediately I started reading and it was a fun and enchanting journey finding out the answers as little snippets of information were given up here and there allowing the tale to come together.
When I picked up The Folk Keeper I thought that at 162 pages I’d have it read in no time. I was wrong! This book takes a fair bit of concentration and will probably take you twice as long as you think to read. Don’t let this put you off though - the story is totally enchanting and definitely worth every minute of your reading time!
Would I recommend this book? Yes, it’s a beautiful and enchanting story very reminiscent of an old fashioned fairytale.
My rating: 4 stars