THE COTTINGLEY SECRET
Published by William Morrow on August 1st, 2017
Hardcover, 399 pages
Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism
ABOUT THE BOOK
The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. Now, in her newest novel, international bestseller Hazel Gaynor reimagines their story.
1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? 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. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?
"Like fairies, stories will not be rushed", and this one certainly wasn't! Although I was captivated by the concept behind The Cottingley Secret, I found its execution somewhat underwhelming: achingly slow even for someone who, like me, doesn't mind dwelling on contemplative (and sometimes repetitive) descriptions, introspective tones, and lyrical passages.
I am fond of dual timeline narrations and I found the connection between the two main characters (Frances and Olivia) to be cleverly harmonized. However, Frances' voice and the unfolding of the historical thread (based on the true incidents of the Cottingley Fairy Hoax) sounded more persuasive and convincing than Olivia's present day storyline.
The author's fictionalized account of those astonishing events is clearly backed by extensive and rigorous researches, as the copious post scriptum to the book shows. Don't skip those final pages: history buffs and lovers of all things fairies will enjoy Hazel Gaynor's insights and leads to further readings. My rating: 3 stars
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild,
With a faery hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can
“You know, Frances, I sometimes think there’s too much truth in the world. Too much certainty and scientific fact. We don’t always need an explanation, do we? Sometimes all we need is something to believe in, something to give us hope and to remind us how remarkable the world can be, even in the middle of a war.”
For The Cottingley Secret I couldn’t think of a better dessert pairing than Fairy Cakes. They’re not fairy themed cakes, as someone might think: wildly popular in the UK, they’re a smaller variation of what we commonly call 'cupcakes', but unlike the American version, they’re made of a lighter sponge cake and favor a more delicate glace icing as opposed to the buttercream traditionally used in the US. A 'fairy cake' is also a type of cupcake with its top cut off and replaced in two pieces, like wings. The etymology of the name ‘Fairy Cakes’ is due to their petit size, small enough to be enjoyed by the tiny mythical creatures. No wine to match this time - just a cup of good English tea. Enjoy!