Barbara Newhall Follett: A Life in Letters

Edited by Stefan Cooke. Farksolia, $29.95 (638p) ISBN 978-0-9962431-1-7
The writer Barbara Follett, as revealed in this compilation of letters, diary entries, and reviews edited by her half-nephew Cooke, lived a life that would be unbelievable if it were presented in a work of fiction. Born in 1914, Barbara began writing at age four and published her first novel, The House Without Windows, at 13. She was home-schooled and had little contact with other children; most of her early letters are to grown-up friends. She was enthralled by nature and invented her own world, Farksolia. This idyllic life was shattered when Barbara’s adored father left the family for another woman. His letters at this time are bitterly cruel. In an effort to establish Barbara as a travel writer, her mother, Helen, took her on a long odyssey to the South Pacific. Cooke’s narrative emphasizes that Barbara shared her father’s tendency to escape problems rather than confronting them. In Samoa, Barbara suffered “a smash—emotional and nervous.” Back in the U.S., she ran away and was found by the police, a widely reported incident. In 1939, shortly after her husband of five years asked for a divorce, she left her house and was never seen again. Many of the letters repeatedly cover the same ground, but anyone intrigued by this real-life mystery will want to read them all. Her fantastical life and the enigma of her disappearance are equally compelling. (BookLife)
Reviewed on: 09/26/2016
Release date: 08/01/2015
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