Title: Cottingley Secret
Author: Hazel Gaynor
Published: October 4th 2017
Publisher: Harper Collins Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 5 stars
The New York Times bestselling author turns the clock back to a time when two young girls convinced the world that fairies really did exist…
Cottingley, Yorkshire, 1917: When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, announce they have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when the great novelist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, endorses the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a sensation; their discovery offering something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war.
One hundred years later: When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript and a photograph in her late grandfather’s bookshop it sparks a fascination with the story of the two young girls who mystified the world. Delving deeper into the past, and the truth behind an innocent game that became a national obsession, Olivia begins to question her own beliefs. And as she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, will Olivia find a way to believe in herself?
Mrs R’s review:
Prior to The Cottingley Secret, I had only read one book by Hazel Gaynor, The Girl From The Savoy. I fell in love with Hazel’s work and her latest novel, The Cottingley Secret, has cemented her place as one of my favourite historical fiction authors. Hazel writes beautifully and descriptively about different events in time she has thoroughly researched from the Titanic to 1920s Savoy. Her current book uses a dual narrative and split timeline as she sheds light on the fairies that were photographed over one hundred years ago.
The story begins in Ireland in the present day told through the eyes of Olivia in the first person. Olivia is a young woman who is engaged but has serious doubts about her marriage. Taking the chance to leave her finance and life behind in London, she heads to Ireland where she inherits a bookshop from her deceased grandfather. Something Old is a second-hand shop that challenges Olivia to bring life to its dusty shelves once again. As a book lover, I really felt Hazels’ love of book shops come through as she describes the old shop and it’s many books waiting to be bought by customers. Olivia discovers she has inherited more than a shop when she comes across a memoir written by Frances Griffiths called Notes on a Fairytale.
Notes on a Fairy Tale is Frances first hand account of moving to Ireland during the Great War, particularly 1917. Hazel had access to Frances’ unfinished story of this real life event and become a confidant of Frances’ daughter, Christine Lynch. Reading Frances’ story and talking to her daughter provided fascinating material for Hazel to incorporate into Notes on a Fairy Tale. While I did enjoy getting to know Olivia, I often couldn’t wait to get back to Frances’ memoir. Living in Ireland with Frances, I came to understand the close bond she formed with her cousin Elsie Wright. I truly believe that Frances, at 9 years old, was a strong believer in fairies like many little girls and that her teenage cousin went along for the ride. Taking a photo of fairy cut outs could well have been to help convince their respective families that fairies were real. For others, such as Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, when the photos became public during and after the war in The Strand magazine, they were a symbol of hope. If fairies did exist, perhaps there was truly life after death. At the end of it all, the five photos weren’t intended by these cousins to be seen by the world and debated for over 50 years.
These five photos were thoughtfully printed at the back of the book, along with a note by Hazel and Christine Lynch, Hazel’s daughter. The photos were fascinating because one wonders how people could believe that they were real. To today’s discerning eye, they look nothing but fake. I have to confess that I read the notes before I read the book because I wanted to know just how much was researched and how much was fictionalised. While Olivia’s story is fictional, I was pleasantly surprised at how much fact is put into Notes on a Fairy Tale.
With it’s magical cover, The Cottingley Secret is perfect for those who want to learn more the unexpected biggest hoax in history.
The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor was published on October 4th 2017 by Harper Collins Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Cottingley Secret, Hazel Gaynor visit here.