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Review: The Cottingley Secret

The Cottingley Secret

Title: The Cottingley Secret
Author: Hazel Gaynor
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 416
Published by: William Morrow & Company
Date Published: August 1, 2017
You can find it here: Bookshop.org


Olivia Kavanagh is living an average life in London. She has a job she likes … kind of. She has a finance she loves … maybe. When her beloved grandfather passes away and bequeaths his bookshop to her, Olivia takes a needed break and escapes to her childhood home of Cottingley to settle his estate and determine her next steps. It is here she uncovers both an ethereal photograph of a young girl with fairies dancing in front of her and the unpublished journal of Frances Griffths, the famous girl in the photograph.

100 years earlier Cottingley is struggling through WWI and two young girls, Frances Griffths and Elsie Wright, are about to become a national sensation. They have photographed magical fairies in a Cottingley garden in the summer of 1917. At first a harmless, magical secret, these photos are about to take the world by storm. Are they real? Are they a hoax? What starts as an innocent fascination, quickly becomes fraught with worry and unwanted fame.

As Olivia unwinds the mystery of the Cottingley fairies she discovers her own familial secrets connect her to these long ago girls, slowly revealing both the truth of the past and the direction of her future.

Based on the real Cottingley fairy photographs, Hazel Gaynor writes an enchanting tale combining parts magical realism and historical fiction.


Let’s Talk Forgiveness of the Undemanding Book:

If I struggled at times with Olivia it wasn’t enough to fault the book on the whole. Honestly, sometimes I am just more forgiving of an undemanding, escapist read and hang up my picky bitch hat for a moment. I found myself whisked away in this audiobook and it genuinely was a calming, interesting, and heartfelt time spent. Maybe it was the right book at the right time, maybe it was the fact that I’m a sucker for books narrated by calm spoken, British women … whatever the reason, I found this to be a very enjoyable read.

Let’s Talk The Real Life Mystery and Belief in Fairies:

Discovering that these fairy photographs are actually real, and very much took the world by storm in the early 1900s, absolutely extended my enjoyment and enchantment. I argue the fascination with fairies is timeless, just as alive today, and I really enjoyed Hazel’s decision to leave the interpretation of the reality or existence of magic open for your own conclusion. While she wrapped up the “mystery” in an honest, logical way, she left the possibility that magic exists in whatever way you choose to see it.

Overall Thoughts:

This light, bright, and undemanding historical fiction combines magical realism, romance, and a clue hunting mystery to yield a pleasant, easy distraction. I didn’t always enjoy the current timeline story structure with Olivia and her waffling over a fiancé she doesn’t care for, but the past timeline, centring around Hazel Gaynor’s reimagining of the creation of the Cottingley photographs, was enchanting. Furthering this spell is the fact that these photographs exist and were included in the book for reference. Whisper light prose, a sprinkling of magic, and excellent narrators resulted in an overall hopeful read with heart.

TBR Ranking: High

For Fans Of:

The Forgotten GardenThe Forgotten Garden

Written by Kate Morton

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The Forbidden GardenThe Forbidden Garden

Written by Ellen Herrick

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