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Review: Folk - Zoe Gilbert


Genre: literary fiction / short stories Published: Bloomsbury, february 2018 My rating: 2/5 stars


How to describe Folk…? Not only is that question pretty hard to answer, it’s also my main problem with this novel. This review is bound to be about as disjointed as the book, so I apologize in advance.


Admittedly I had heard mostly mixed to negative reviews about it, yet the premise sounded awesome enough that I was really hoping to be the unpopular opinion on this one. Unfortunately, I agreed with most of the reviews I had seen, and was left with the same questions others were left with. The main one being: “what is this book?” Is it a novel or a short story collection? Even after reading the whole thing, I can’t give you a definitive answer.

The story is set on the fictional island of Neverness, where magic and folklore are as real as the islanders that inhabit it. Each chapter follows a different character, each with a separate little story to tell. The stories share geography, and many characters reappear as side characters in each other’s chapters, yet there is no clear overarching narrative that links them all together, which left me disconnected from all of it.

As a concept, I think it’s interesting, yet in reality it works as neither. The chapters are too disconnected to work as a novel, yet lack individual depth to work as standalone short stories.

Many reviewers have blamed the publisher for false marketing because of this. I don’t think this is entirely fair, as really: it falls somewhere in the middle. I think the book would have been stronger if the author would have decided to go either route, instead of combining the two.


Speaking of the publisher, I don’t often discuss covers in my reviews, but in this case I want to make an exception. I want to give some credit to cover designer David Mann, the same man responsible for other gorgeous Bloomsbury-covers such as that of Circe, Sing Unburied Sing, Black Fox Running and many others. All of these are stunning enough, that I would frame them and hang them on my walls without a moments hesitation.


If you have read this: please let me know in the comments how you think this should be approached (novel or short stories)? I would really love to hear your opinion.


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