Review Detail4.7 3
Life of a Folk Keeper is not an easy one. There's always the fear of things going south, and when they do, the Folk do not differentiate between a chicken and a human being. Food is food, and the Folk couldn't care less. But even so, the Folk Keepers are respected, and they are given food and lodging, and for Corinna, that's all she ever wanted. Peace and quiet, some food and a roof overhead. And some RESPECT! Respect and recognition. So, when Corinna (or Corin - as she went by disguised as a boy) is offered the position of a Folk Keeper in Cliffsend, she has no reason to turn it down.
In Cliffsend, Corinna meets a boy called Finian. Here she also meets Sir Edwards, and Lady Alicia, and Taffy, the old hound. But above all, she meets the real Corinna. Essentially, The Folk Keeper is a story about a young girl finding herself, establishing her identity, growing up and accepting who she really is, and who she is meant to be. There are obstacles, both internal and external, in her journey of self discovery, which are depicted in this book through characters such as Sir Edwards, who will do anything in his power to keep Corinna from learning the truth about herself, or giving her the things that are rightfully hers to take. And of course, the Folk. The Folk are always ready to tear her apart, make a feast out of her. Corinna has to deal with both Sir Edwards and the Folk simultaneously, while trying to figure out a way to survive and become who she is meant to be.
In the beginning, we see Corinna as a feisty little thing who is ready to take revenge on anyone who manages to piss her off. She is quiet, but knows to hold a grudge. She also knows the ways of the World. And she is arrogant. There is a quote quite early on in the book, where Corinna is thinking to herself, "Everyone is afraid, only I am powerful". This pretty much shows her views of the World. She is very good at looking down on others, but to me, it seemed like a defense mechanism. She created a barrier between herself and the rest of the World because that was the only way she knew to protect herself. She never knew love, people only ever mistreated her. But as the story progressed, Corinna met people who showed her kindness; like Finian, and also the old dog Taffy, who surprisingly grew attached to her. While in the beginning she was wary of Finian as well as Taffy, pretending not to care, or even dislike them, eventually she starts to accept that even she can learn to care for others besides herself.
This was the first time I read a coming of age book quite like this one. The entire time I was reading this book, I was sitting at the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. Will the Folk devour her? Will Sir Edwards manage to kill her? Is she ever going to realize that there is something special in the way Finian treats her? But more importantly, will she ever realize that she herself has fallen for Finian? Will she realize who she is? As the reader, I think I knew from pretty early on who the real Corinna was, but it wasn't until much later that Corinna herself realized it. The tension between her and the Folk, and between her and Finian, and between her and Sir Edwards, kept rising and rising, and I kept waiting and waiting, and then finally all the missing pieces of the puzzle fell in place, and the whole picture came to light.
At the end of the day, this really was a story about growing up, and finding one's true self, and then accepting it. Do not not read this book because you think of this as a children's book. I assure you, it is much more than just that. And last but not the least, I loved Franny Billingsley's style of writing, and I presume, much of the joy derived from reading this book had to do with her way of telling a story. She is, at least from what I gathered after reading The Folk Keeper, a mighty story teller!
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1999
Source: University of Denver Library, Denver, Colorado, USA