This month I’m reviewing the incredible book The Cottingly Secret by Hazel Gaynor. This book is set in 1917 when two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.
One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined.
The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor is written for booklovers like you and me. It's a mixture of historical details mixed with a legacy that stretched generations, and add in the magical realism aspect, and we're in for a fun read. O, how I love the start of this book. Something left behind, but with a story in itself that fans the pages, and entice readers and characters alike. The description the author wrote of the "Something Old" bookstore pretty much ensnared my senses, even though she already had me at "Something Old" and "bookstore." Then we dive into an old book, tied together with ribbons with a story about more than just fairies. It's about friendships, lost, and family. It connected the present with the past. As we continued on, we jump back and forth between Frances and Elsie to present day Olivia. The dual timeline format works exceptionally well with this story. The way it unfolds, and the way it held back until the precise moment of revelation. Just simply a story and its secrets that beholds.
I loved everything about this book – from the legacy Olivia has been given to the dusty rare-books shop to Ross and Iris and the way they amiably invade Olivia’s life. The history geek in me fell in love with the story of Frances and Elsie and their fairy photographs from Cottingley, especially Arthur Conan Doyle’s role. And the bookworm in me fell in love with the ‘Something Old’ bookstore and Ireland in general.
Hazel Gaynor brings the mystery of the Cottingley Fairies thrillingly to life in a gorgeously written narrative that moves seamlessly between Yorkshire in the 19th century - a time when Conan Doyle and other men of science wanted desperately to believe in the possibility of fairies and ghosts and spirits - and Ireland in the 21st century. A mystery, a love story, and an enchanting and surprising journey of self-discovery, 'The Cottingley Secret' unwraps the true story behind one of the great hoaxes of the 19th century while still allowing the possibility of the magical.
The Cottingley Secret is beautifully written, with history and magical realism weaving a captivating spell between the pages. A hint of sweet romance, and a tender message of legacy and family makes the story all the more compelling. Olivia is an engaging heroine, and the cast of supporting characters (both past and present) will settle in your heart and linger for a while. If you like Sarah Addison Allen, Kate Morton, Kristy Cambron, and/or Melanie Dobson, this needs to be high on your TBR list!