Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Cottingley Secret

Author: Hazel Gaynor
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 416
Publisher: William Morrow
First Published: August 1, 2017
First Line: "Cottingley, Yorkshire - August 1921 - Fairies will not be rushed."

Book Description from GoodReadsThe 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?

My Rating: 3 stars

My ReviewThis light, character-driven read is based on the 1917 true story of two English girls who had photographic proof that they had seen fairies near their home. When you add in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's involvement (which sadly ends up being minimal) you have an intriguing idea for a book!

The story is told via dual narratives - Frances Griffiths in 1917 and Olivia Kavanagh one hundred years later - and I had mixed feelings about both. Olivia's story was overly saccharine at times and predictable, especially with her fiancĂ© who was a one-dimensional caricature of a shallow guy. What saved her part of the story for me was the used bookshop setting (swoon!) and how her story line connected with the fairy plot. Frances' side of things had an interesting premise, but I don't feel the fairies aspect and how easily everyone believed in the story was explored enough. Overall, I found the telling of both sides of the story long-winded.

I was initially interested in the magical aspect of this book, but I was also eager for a historical mystery surrounding the alleged sighting of fairies. Unfortunately, readers are privy to the real story from the beginning so the 'mystery' aspect fell flat. 

This is a hard book to rate. I liked the premise but didn't love this book nearly as much as other readers. It had a lot of promise but I wasn't fond of the execution of the story, nor did I feel as engaged in either the story or characters as I thought I would be. This story is about the magic people needed to believe in during and after the devastation of WWI and while I liked that it was based in fact and well researched, overall this was just an okay read for me.

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