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The Cottingley Secret

The Cottingley Secret, August 2017
by Hazel Gaynor

William Morrow
416 pages
ISBN: 006249984X
EAN: 9780062499844
Kindle: B01N3O9X8V
Paperback / e-Book
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"A magical story!"

Fresh Fiction Review

The Cottingley Secret
Hazel Gaynor

Reviewed by Magdalena Johansson
Posted January 28, 2018

Women's Fiction Historical | Historical

THE COTTINGLEY SECRET is the first book I have read by Hazel Gaynor. I was intrigued by the idea of the book, about the cousins that took the Cottingley photographs of fairies (you can google Cottingley fairies to see the photographs yourself, they are added at the end of the book). Personally, from a modern perspective, I have a hard time to see how anyone can take them for real. But, it was another time back then.

The book has two storylines, in 1917 we meet cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright whose photographs of fairies at the bottom of the garden at first are something private in the family until the rumors spread and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle hears of them and he is convinced that the photographs are real. But, what is the real story behind the photographs? Are the faires real?

In the book's other storyline we move to the present time, to Olivia Kavanagh. Olivia finds after the death of her grandfather an old manuscript written by Frances Griffiths that tells the real story about the fairies. Olivia is a bit lost in life with an upcoming marriage to a man she isn't sure she wants to marry to her recent loss of her grandfather and not to mention her grandmother who has Alzheimer's and is in a nursing home. Through the manuscript, she gets to know the true story of the fairies, and she also finds a link to her own family's history.

THE COTTINGLEY SECRET is a book that I eagerly waited to read. I found the description of the book to be enchanting, and the cover is stunning. I have to admit that it took some time for me to appreciate Flora. Don't take me wrong, I liked her storyline, but I just found it was hard to really warm up to her. It wasn't until the end of the book, when I found myself appreciating her because I started to understand her motives, why for instance she agreed to the proposal, despite not being sure. Her losses in life and the situation she is now really made her take a step back to reevaluate her life and I found that the "real" Flora is a wonderful character.

I was curious to see Gaynor take on Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright photographs of the fairies. Back then the photographs caused quite a sensation and they would for decades stand by their story that it was real fairies that they had photographed. I liked Gaynor's version of what happened, and I liked the connection between Olivia's story and the girls.

THE COTTINGLEY SECRET is a book that I enjoyed reading. The writing is really good, and I was intrigued by the story. I'm looking forward to reading Gaynor's other books.

Learn more about The Cottingley Secret


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?

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