Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

I'm going to keep this review short because I think my reviews are creeping back up in length and I need to get a grip on the size of them. Feel free to let me know what you think about length. I'm naturally wordy but I can keep things shorter when I need to.

The Cottingley Secret is a combination historical-contemporary novel in which the historical setting is York, England during and a little after WWI and the contemporary setting is Ireland.

In 1917, Francis Griffiths moves from Cape Town, South Africa to Cottingley, England when her father is called up to serve in the war. She's unsure she'll like England but quickly takes to her cousin Elsie, who is 7 years older but lively and fun. When the two girls claim they've photographed fairies in the garden, they think their stunt is harmless. But, then more and more people become convinced that the fairies are real, forcing them into unwanted fame.

Olivia Kavanagh was not expecting to inherit her grandfather's bookstore in Ireland. She has a job in London and a wedding to plan. But, now she's not sure her husband-to-be is the right man for her and she needs to save the bookstore from debt. When she begins to read an unpublished manuscript written by Francis of Cottingley Fairies fame, she is reminded of her childhood and slowly discovers the connection between Francis and herself, helping her realize what's most important about her future.

Highly recommended - I loved this book. The Cottingley Secret is absolutely charming, with a little bit of a magical touch and characters I believed in. I only knew a little about the Cottingley Fairies - that they'd been declared fake by one of the girls after many, many years of denials (I remember hearing about it when the story that the photos were fake came out), but little else.

In the extra P.S. information at the back of the paperback edition, the author talks about how she befriended the daughter of Francis, who had privately published her mother's memoirs. Author Hazel Gaynor didn't mention whether she used the manuscript or rewrote Francis's thoughts in her own words but I can tell you I thought the excerpts from Francis's manuscript in the book, whether real or not, had the ring of truth. Francis' story always seemed completely genuine to me. The only problem I had with the book was minor - at the beginning of Olivia's story, she already was questioning her future marriage but she couldn't admit that to herself. I had a little trouble believing anyone would keep dragging her feet when she had this tremendous option to start a new life. But, after I closed the book I gave that some thought and realized that we're not always true to ourselves and change is hard. Maybe Olivia could have seemed a little less unsure at the beginning of the book and that would have made it utterly perfect, but how she felt at the beginning was not enough to mar one of the most delightful books I've read, this year.

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  1. Did they make a movie based on this? That story about the girls making up stories about fairies sounds so familiar.

    1. I haven't heard anything about a movie but there could be one out there that I don't know about. I remember reading the fairy photos were fake and being disappointed, a few years back (not sure when). I have no idea how I already knew about them but I was familiar with the Cottingley Fairies before the news that the were just props. Well, all but one.


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