Hosack’s Folly: A Novel of Old New York

Written by Gillen D’Arcy Wood
Review by Juliet Waldron

Set in the 1820s, Hosack’s Folly is an engaging tale that combines themes of political, journalistic, and mercantile skullduggery with a gentle romance. Doctor Hosack was, in his day, a well-known and often controversial figure on the City scene. Today he is occasionally remembered as the physician who was present at the famous duel in which Alexander Hamilton lost his life. Hosack was also responsible for the founding of Bellevue Hospital, Columbia University Medical School, and the first botanical garden in New York, but it is his youthful protégé, Albert, and a privileged girl who secretly loves him (and whose father is Hosack’s deadly enemy) who are the center of the story. There is plenty of action provided by a gubernatorial election, water politics, and a yellow fever epidemic. In the great tradition of the Victorian novel, there is an ample amount of lovingly rendered setting to showcase well-rounded, believable characters. The author has an ear for the language of the 1820s, so the dialogue has a wonderful period flair that I particularly enjoyed. The last few chapters seemed a trifle formulaic, but overall this was an enjoyable novel, combining history, mystery and romance with great success.