“When Dad had been sentenced, I had been orphaned, practically and emotionally, at a much younger age than I had anticipated being parentless. I had been thrust into a new phase of life, a lonely phase, an unguided phase, which was both terrifying and oddly liberating.”
The Folly is Gemma Amor’s brooding Gothic mystery that evokes the best of both Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho.
The Folly opens with forty-three-year-old Morgan as she retrieves her father from prison. Morgan’s father was sentenced in a high-profile trial for the murder of his wife but is now being released following an appeal and eventual retrial. The isolation of prison is replaced by the disquieting loneliness of the COVID-19 pandemic:
“What a life, I thought, in which every basic human need had become a protracted operation. Grocery shopping, doctor appointments, dentist appointments, haircuts, all the everyday shit we’d taken for granted suddenly layered with anxious complexity. What a world for Dad to come out into, after everything he suffered already.”
Financial strain and the unbearable memories of her mother’s death lead Morgan to sell their family home in Bristol and build a new life along the Cornwall coast. Morgan and her father become caretakers of the Folly, a gloomy lighthouse-style tower famous for its death tourists, whose visits to the Folly are destined to be their last.
“A decorative, brooding, and yet wholly frivolous endeavour, the Folly was a tall black granite tower with distinct crenellations capping the roof. It sat stoically on the very tip of a craggy, hooked peninsula, rising confidently above the sea as if it belonged to another era, as if ancient kings had resided there once.”
Gemma Amor channels Daphne du Maurier’s dark, poetic writing style, perfectly capturing the atmosphere and tone of Rebecca. Like du Maurier, Amor explores themes of personal identity and isolation, while slowly revealing hidden secrets and motivations.
This wouldn’t be a Gemma Amor novel without a healthy dose of horror. Amor strikes just the right level of supernatural dread to make The Folly feel deeply unsettling but without ever becoming excessive.
Following up on her back-to-back masterpieces, Full Immersion and The Once Yellow House, the Bram Stoker and British Fantasy Award nominated author Gemma Amor apparently can do no wrong. Although less ambitious in scope than her previous two novels, The Folly is an understated Gothic gem from one of today’s most exhilarating voices in speculative fiction.