Dorothy Gilman is most famous for the “Mrs. Polifax” series, but the stand-alone novel “Thale’s Folly” is equally as enjoyable, although it’s a story rather than a mystery.
Andrew Oliver Thale is a young man of twenty-six who survived a terrifying plane crash, coming out with a number of broken bones and post-traumatic stress disorder. Once a budding novelist with two books under his belt, he has lost his ability to write fiction and has taken a job writing newsletters for the company where his father holds a place as vice-president. He can’t sleep without having nightmares about the crash, and his health is deteriorating.
Aunt Harriet Thale owned a large house out in the country, and upon her death five years ago, the property reverted to Andrew’s father, who decides to send Andrew out to survey it for a potential sale. Andrew goes reluctantly, thinking to spend one afternoon there and then come home, but he discovers that a delightful group of people are living in the house where they have no right to be. It turns out that Aunt Harriet loved to help those in need, taking in the homeless and hungry. When she died, she had a houseful of friends with nowhere else to go, so they stayed on, hoping no one would come to throw them out. Among them is the beautiful Tarragon, a young woman who was brought to Aunt Harriet as an infant and has nowhere else to go.
Andrew is immediately taken with the inhabitants of the house, and doesn’t want to tell his father about them. Doing everything he can to help them, he realizes that he wants to live there too, in the quiet, kind atmosphere, and discovers that after all this time, he can write again.
This book is a gentle, enjoyable read. There is an occasional mild swear word, but that’s the extent of it.
(This book was published in 1999 by Random House.)