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Archived VBC Selections > Folly by Laurie R. King - VBC May 2014

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message 1: by John (new)

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Welcome to our May discussion book, Folly by Laurie R. King. Like many of you I am a fan of Laurie's two major series novels featuring Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes and Kate Martinelli. However, I am particularly fond of LRK's "stand alone" novels, and Folly is one of my favorites. On a personal note, this book grabbed my with an early reference to Thomas Merton, one of my favorite spiritual authors; I hope to someday visit the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani on retreat. To my mind this novel is the story of a damaged woman and a damaged island and their effect on each other. Welcome to the world of Folly Island, and enjoy your read. I will leave you with a discussion question to keep in mind as you read (especially if this is your first time): Who do you think is the protagonist of this story? Enjoy!!


message 2: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia (indigogirl17) | 16 comments John and everyone,

I, like our moderator, do enjoy the stand alone books and find them very powerful, including Folly.


message 3: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 128 comments Folly is my favorite among the standalones and IMO the very best of Laurie's many wonderful books. Why? I need to think about that as I reread. By the way, though I have most of LRK's books in both paper and audio, I'll be enjoying again the wonderful narration by Frank Muller.


message 4: by John (new)

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Margaret wrote: "Folly is my favorite among the standalones and IMO the very best of Laurie's many wonderful books. Why? I need to think about that as I reread. By the way, though I have most of LRK's books in b..."

Margaret, I am always wary of choosing a "best book" by any author but I must admit that I can't pick any better than Folly among all of Laurie's books!


message 5: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I loved that Folly is set in the San Juans. My family used to go for summer camping vacations on Orcas and San Juan Islands, so the location is one I love. There is just something awesome about really knowing the setting of a book. Like an extra bit of connection.


message 6: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1078 comments When I first started Folly I thought, "I don't know if I can really spend a whole book with a crazy person." But then I got into it, and nearer to the end, when the police chief asks her why she thinks she's been imagining things, I was struck by his question, which seemed incredibly sensible. (Don't have the book with me, or this would be a quoted conversation. Sorry.) I thought this book really made the point that crazy may be in the eye of the beholder, not an objective judgment.


message 7: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments I, too, love this book. One problem I had with it, which struck me again during my current re-read, is that I cannot picture the house. I just can't get the stone that it is set up against and the towers and the chimney and the roofline to cohere into something reasonable. This may say more about my visual imagination than Laurie's descriptive skills, in fact it undoubtably does, but I still find it frustrating not to be able to See the house.


message 8: by John (new)

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
KarenB wrote: "I, too, love this book. One problem I had with it, which struck me again during my current re-read, is that I cannot picture the house. I just can't get the stone that it is set up against and the ..."

I have never been able to exactly picture the house in its entirety either, Karen, but that hasn't ever bothered me. I have a pretty clear picture of the elements which are important to the story line, and I have found myself satisfied with that. I tend to be detail-oriented generally, but here I was fine with just the necessary pieces and didn't worry about the rest. I found myself letting the story flow without obsessing over details to much.


message 9: by Tiffstitch (new)

Tiffstitch | 2 comments This is my favorite LRK book overall, and I discovered it while I was going through a difficult time. Listening to Frank Muller's narration and LRK's fantastic words really helped me get through. Vivian might be my favorite character side from Rae.


message 10: by John (new)

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Tiffstitch wrote: "This is my favorite LRK book overall, and I discovered it while I was going through a difficult time. Listening to Frank Muller's narration and LRK's fantastic words really helped me get through. V..."

Thanks for your comment, Tiffstitch! I am always interested to see how many of LRK's fans love this book, and why. This story is just loaded with interesting characters and it is great to hear which characters the readers have an affinity for. I personally find Ed De la Torre to be extremely interesting.


message 11: by Tiffstitch (new)

Tiffstitch | 2 comments Very true John. Ed is a character that seems like he might have a book in him as well.


message 12: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 121 comments James' last novel is difficult reading for us lay people. Let the students of James and of


message 13: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 121 comments Yikes...I come to look in on the discussion and find a fragment I'd written about The Golden Bowl before I had to quickly put down my iPad. Technology-1, me-0. Am I just the comic relief?

Anyway, I've started rereading Folly. I read it about ten years ago when you rented audio books and they arrived in boxes. I remember that I loved it then, and now I'm loving it all over again...well, maybe even more, if that's possible, since now I know about the San Juan islands.


message 14: by John (new)

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Nothing wrong with comic relief, Linda ;-)

Is there anything which has struck you during your reread which was different from your initial read?


message 15: by Barb (last edited May 09, 2014 07:52PM) (new)

Barb Nelson (barbn) | 2 comments I finished reading Folly late Thursday night--about 1:30 am, so really it was Friday morning ;). I forced myself to spread it out over several days because otherwise I would have just sat and read for about 24 hours straight! Great book, very compelling story of Rae's journey from mental fragility back to strength. I was particularly drawn to the idea of community in the San Juans--some people on their individual islands, some people grouped together, some people tracing lines of connection between them in their boats, but all part of what is essentially a small town. Great, thought-provoking metaphor for human community. I saw on the LRK website (http://www.laurierking.com/folly.html) that although the island of Folly is something she made up, the residents of the San Juans felt like she had done a good job of describing their area.


message 16: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 2 comments Folly is not only one my favorite LRK books, it is one of my favorite books overall. I have it in hardback and have a loaning copy in paperback. I have a digital version on my tablet and an audible version. I read or listen to it every Summer. It paints a lovely picture of the north Pacific Islands, a place I feel very fortunate to have visited. And it describes with aching clarity what those who suffer from depression or PTSD must endure.


message 17: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments A few comments to prod the discussion along:
*discuss the house as a metaphor for Rae's mental health or discuss it in terms of how it serves as therapy
*the use of near-mythic characters - I'm thinking particularly of Nikki, Ed and Vivian
*dreams, masks, imposters


message 18: by Madonna (new)

Madonna | 4 comments What a great book! I love King's books--some more than others, but this one is a real stand-out for me.
I, too, tried to picture the house, but I was unable to put each piece into the whole. And the woodshed behind the fireplace......! I could "see" the place, but not all the secret doors, and coming out of the window and "swinging" over and.....and....and...... I had no problem with the front door, or the 2 towers, but not in relationship to each other.
I also wondered about the narrator sustaining the story for whole novel. But Rae did. And I'm glad I stuck with her.
For all the reasons others cited, I liked the book, but I have another reason: we are starting to build a house. The character drew strength from the process and grew in confidence as her house grew--she was making the right choices and those choices were redeeming her. Not that either of us is in the place Rae was, but some have questioned the style and type of house we chose and building such a house as a retired couple. I'm hoping we, too, will have our choices justified when people see the house.
Rae several times mentioned the stability of her house, and the house was a metaphor for her--she was becoming a stable person.
I was surprised by the identity of her tormentor. Liked the supporting characters, and I agree Ed, with his own illustrations, could be a book.


message 19: by Antoinette (new)

Antoinette | 186 comments I am nearly half-way through Folly for the first time and totally engulfed by it. Thank you for suggesting it, otherwise would never had read it. I have no idea who the protagonist is. Don? I can see the house quite clearly and the island. The book is a lot darker than most I select but I can see a spiritual component to the book as well. Please don't let the ending be as horrible as I imagine.


message 20: by John (new)

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Glad you are enjoying it, Antoinette! It is a grim story but I think you will find it satisfying. The reason I asked people who they would say is the protagonist is because I don't necessarily think it is the obvious choice. I'm just curious what everyone else thinks. :-)


message 21: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Interesting question, John. The protagonist was definitely Rae for me. I never considered anyone else.

I read Folly a few years ago, and am hoping to reread it this month, but it was such a powerful book for me. Initially, I put it down after the first few chapters because it hit too close to home. But I am very glad I picked it up again. It served as a catalyst, and opened the door to help. It was life changing, in the sense that it presented me with a very clear mirror.

One of the things that I really appreciated about Folly was its honesty and the thread of hope running through it (most thrillers don’t seem to have that). And that hope grew as the book progressed. When you have fallen down a pit as deep as Rae, it’s difficult to remember that there is light somewhere out there, and even harder to pull yourself out of the pit. It was very encouraging to follow Rae on her journey.

I love the use of the house as both a metaphor and therapy. When ones mind is in ruin, it helps to have something tangible to rebuild. It also, I think, helped her have a sense of control over something, as her mind, she felt, was constantly betraying her.

And the ending is wonderful! I could read more books with Rae and… well don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t finished it yet.


message 22: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1078 comments John wrote: "Glad you are enjoying it, Antoinette! It is a grim story but I think you will find it satisfying. The reason I asked people who they would say is the protagonist is because I don't necessarily thin..."

I definitely think Rae is the protagonist.


message 23: by Erin (last edited May 15, 2014 02:11PM) (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I got off to rather a late start on this re-read. I'm a goodly way in now and reading Rae's description of her mental condition put me in mind of Allie Brosch, creator of Hyperbole and a Half. She did this great explanation of what clinical depression feels like.
"I had so very few feelings, and everyone else had so many, and it felt like they were having all of them in front of me at once. I didn't really know what to do, so I agreed to see a doctor so that everyone would stop having all of their feelings at me. "
(eta: forgot the link!)
I hadn't realized before reading her explanation just how grossly understating the term "depression" is for the clinical condition. Especially ironic in that someone with clinical depression is actually incapable of feeling even depressed.

As much as I felt for Rae the first time I read this, I think I'm empathizing about a billion times more now.

Also, having gone on a small thriller binge a while back, Folly struck me as super lyrical by comparison. Just so beautifully drawn compared to the genre on average.


message 24: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
John wrote: "Glad you are enjoying it, Antoinette! It is a grim story but I think you will find it satisfying. The reason I asked people who they would say is the protagonist is because I don't necessarily thin..."

Yeah, I definitely see Rae as the obvious protagonist too. Maybe Desmond Newborn a little because of the kind of story-within-a-story aspect of the book. But now you have me curious, John; who do you think is the protagonist?


message 25: by John (new)

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Erin, in the strict sense of protagonist it's probably hard to argue against Rae, but it has always been my personal conceit that Desmond is the character around which the whole story revolves. That conceit has never diminished the central character of Rae (who is one of my favorite LRK figures ever) for me, but rather enriched a tale which is one of my favorite works of fiction.


message 26: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
John wrote: "Erin, in the strict sense of protagonist it's probably hard to argue against Rae, but it has always been my personal conceit that Desmond is the character around which the whole story revolves. Tha..."

I can see that, John. Mysteries kind of lend themselves to that sort of absent protagonist effect (don't know what else to call it). The readers get to know the victim through the detective's eyes, often more intimately then we get to know the detective. And the entire story is usually about someone who is absent.


message 27: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Also, having gone on a small thriller binge a while back, Folly struck me as super lyrical by comparison. Just so beautifully drawn compared to the genre on average.

So true, Erin. I don't have my book with me, but I still remember this whole coffee making scene, and thinking how interesting the mundane can be portrayed with beautiful writing.


message 28: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 121 comments Just crawling out from under the weather.

John. You asked what was different this time from my read ten years ago.

Knowing the San Juans are real and a little about them changed my experience of Rae. When I first started reading Folly, I thought the islands were off the coast of California, maybe even Baja California. When it became clear that wasn't true, and I was so riveted on Rae I must have ignored the earlier references, I decided it was a made-up place. The effect this had was to reinforce my identity with Rae; i was as lost as she, in a place where anything could happen. I trusted no one, alive or dead.

Well...it was only a few months ago when I learned about the San Juans through this format and then the Internet. My curiosity was still high when I started rereading Folly.


message 29: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 121 comments Cont.

First, I trusted people on the islands so I saw how isolating mental illness can be. When Rae interacts with islanders, even in small ways, I saw these as huge steps. And I appreciate the ending. I saw how perfect it is. After Rae successfully reconnects with the world, she and we discover there IS a real menace, not just lookers and person behind her, and she survives it. I was just as riveted by Rae the second time, but I think I enjoyed her more.

As you can see, John, you really made me think about your question.

Sorry for the two-parter.


message 30: by John (new)

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Nothing to be sorry about, Linda! Thank you very much for your thoughtful and interesting response! I am continually bedazzled by the affects that books have on individual's lives, and love to hear other's perspectives on how different their re-reads of a favorite book can be. Thanks for sharing!


message 31: by Antoinette (new)

Antoinette | 186 comments Lenore wrote: "When I first started Folly I thought, "I don't know if I can really spend a whole book with a crazy person." But then I got into it, and nearer to the end, when the police chief asks her why she t..."

I read over 100 pages before I could into Rae's character, but it was worth it near the end. My only disappointment was it seemed that King pulled the bad guy out of a hat.


message 32: by Antoinette (new)

Antoinette | 186 comments KarenB wrote: "A few comments to prod the discussion along:
*discuss the house as a metaphor for Rae's mental health or discuss it in terms of how it serves as therapy
*the use of near-mythic characters - I'm th..."


Allen's character fits the idea of a near-mythic one. Crusader, defender of women and children in peril.


message 33: by Antoinette (new)

Antoinette | 186 comments John wrote: "Glad you are enjoying it, Antoinette! It is a grim story but I think you will find it satisfying. The reason I asked people who they would say is the protagonist is because I don't necessarily thin..."

Now that I finally finished the book I can understand your question better. Several candidates come to mind, Rae of course, Desmond, the house?


message 34: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1078 comments Antoinette wrote: "My only disappointment was it seemed that King pulled the bad guy out of a hat. ..."

I don't think so. I confess I haven't had time to re-read the book, but based on my memory, I think there was definite foreshadowing of the bad guy's ill will toward Rae and motive to "gaslight" her (to borrow a metaphor from a different work of fiction).


message 35: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 57 comments FOLLY is one of my favorite books! As one who has a degree in psychology and someone who deals daily with the stigma of being disabled physically while not yet middle-aged, this book spoke to me at a deep and personal level. This is the book helped me mentally accept my diagnosis and made me realize I was not alone in my troubles.
As for the question of who/what is the main character of the book, I would say it is mental illness/wellness. Or possibly the various paths one takes to carve meaning out of life. Each character is striving for something. Rae: the ability to live without fear in almost any situation; Jerry to protect others when he could not protect his brother (and this understanding is where I think his empathy for Rae comes from). Allen: making up for just following orders in Vietnam. Desmond: trying to find his place in the world that was shattered by war and had shattered him in the process. Nikki: trying to help others because it gives her a confidence in herself I'm not sire she possesses (sp?) in other areas of her life.
As for the perpetrator of the make Rae unstable, it is foreshadowed though the person remains deep in shadow until the end. It does make sense in retrospect though King does try to divert suspicion onto another character. One thing that is not clear is if the accident that took Alan and Bella was truly an accident or was made to look that way by the one who went on to try to drive Rae mad? Maybe I am too cynical and dark and thus reading more into the impetus for the whole story than was intended?


message 36: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
That's deep, Lesley!


message 37: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 128 comments Fascinating comment, Lesley. There were many mental/ psychological problems in my family and, looking back, I haven't always been wise or very sensible, myself. I found Rae's journey from depression to wholeness immensely comforting as well as an intriguing mystery.
PS I did know who the villain was going to be early on but not how he would be foiled.


message 38: by John (new)

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Marvelous response, Lesley! That is certainly not a response I had considered (which is one of the reasons I asked the question!); thank you for sharing your perceptive thoughts on who the main character might be!


message 39: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Lesley wrote: "One thing that is not clear is if the accident that took Alan and Bella was truly an accident or was made to look that way by the one who went on to try to drive Rae mad? "

I think he probably didn't mastermind the car crash; otherwise, why wouldn't he have tried that sooner? But probably Alan and Bella's death started an idea growing. In the end it rather reads like a conspiracy to succession, doesn't it?


message 40: by Judith (new)

Judith | 13 comments Folly is my all time stand alone Laurie King book.


message 41: by John (new)

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Judith wrote: "Folly is my all time stand alone Laurie King book."

Judith, I think you have lots of folks who agree with you!


message 42: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 121 comments I was thinking about the five definitions of "folly" at the beginning, and how they all relate to the book.

1 Lack of good sense...agreeing to Petra's coming, leaving her alone with a gun with a mad man nearby...Folly! But the stuff of good stories.
2 Foolish act or idea...as in, it is folly for a woman with severe fear issues/mental illness to live in a tent on an uninhabited island, right?
3 Evil, wickedness...What folly, to smash all your brother's expensive glass art in revenge! Not to mention destroying the people he loved.
4 An excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking...the expensive wood no one is going to see, for example.
5 An extravagantly expensive and picturesque building erected to suit a fanciful taste...Desmond's house.

It seems to me, LRK makes the element of foolishness clear in many scenes, like Rae's last with Roy, when she points out how much money he missed.

Other thoughts, especially about #2 above?


message 43: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments Linda - Laurie does make much use of folly in her writing. The Holy Fool shows up at least three times - I'm thinking of Erasmus in To Play the Fool, Robert Goodman in Language of Bees and God of the Hive, and Bennett Grey in Touchstone and Bones of Paris. There are smaller uses as well - I think Mahmoud and Ali (I haven't had coffee yet so the actual instance of foolishness doesn't come to mind). But in all of the cases, as in the points you make above, the folly or foolishness is the outward-seeming, the as the world would see it point of view, while, in fact, each holds a deeper wisdom.


message 44: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (laurierking) | 166 comments Mod
Karen: wait til you read Dreaming Spies...


message 45: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments Laurie - that's just mean. It's months and months away! Although you could send me the MS or an ARC and I'd never tell . . .


message 46: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (laurierking) | 166 comments Mod
Yes you would.


message 47: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (laurierking) | 166 comments Mod
I'm not sure if this has come up, but I would like to add to this "San Juans Cycle" of Folly and Keeping Watch. Which other Folly character would you like to see as the center of a novel?
Also, any thoughts on the reading guide we put together a while back? http://www.laurierking.com/wp-content...
Thanks for voting Folly in to the VBC discussions, I'm so glad it's still a loved book!


message 48: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 121 comments The link to Discussion Questions, and so many I can't answer right off! YAY. Thanks for posting it here, Laurie.

Well, I'll start with the last, #8. I love the overall irony of the story, that Rae is so focused on imagined dangers that she misses the real danger. Do the "Imagined watchers" shield her in any way? Perhaps they do, although I hadn't thought of it in that way. Certainly, they are responsible for leaving her prepared, making her senses acute, when the real threat shows up. Also, her overreaction to what might be a footprint leads in a roundabout way to a significant relationship, one she needs. What DOES prevent her from missing imminent danger in such a big way? I think it's her love for her granddaughter. When Petra wants to join her and then gets permission to do so, Rae's happiness prevents her from responding wisely.


message 49: by Antoinette (new)

Antoinette | 186 comments Lesley wrote: "FOLLY is one of my favorite books! As one who has a degree in psychology and someone who deals daily with the stigma of being disabled physically while not yet middle-aged, this book spoke to me a..."

It never occurred to me that the accident that took the lives of Alan and Belle was not an accident. Thank you for that suggestion.


message 50: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 121 comments I'm with Antoinette, Lesley. It never occurred to me either that the fatal car crash was no accident. But in going back to read some of the journal entries and dreams, and seeing how they're juxtaposed with Rae's memories, esp. those of Alan's brother, I am going through a lot of aha-like moments. Then, revisiting your comment,Lesley, made me realize, you're right. It wasn't an accident.

Can others weigh in on this?


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