Friday, August 31, 2018

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Fairies are always interesting. The fairies at Cottingley especially so, since the photos were taken in this world, and not a fictional one. And while most of the photos have been admitted to be a hoax, The Cottingley Secret asks the question 'what if fairies were real?'

When the book starts, Frances has arrived from South Africa to England. The weather is dreary and she misses her father, but when she finds a kindred spirit in her older cousin Elsie and the beck near their house, things start to look up. Many years in the future, in our present time, a grieving Olivia finds a memoir written by Frances. Intrigued (and definitely dreading her future marriage), Olivia decides to stay in the country, read Frances' story, and try to save her late grandfather's bookshop.

I found this book to be enchanting. Although I was initially worried that Olivia's story was nothing more than a framing device, the two narratives came together rather touchingly at the end. I even found myself invested in how Olivia's life turned out, something I didn't think would happen in the beginning, given that Frances' story had the stronger start.

Another thing that made this book magical was the slight inclusion of magic. While the four of the photos were admittedly faked, the author leaves just enough magic and wiggle room in the story to keep the question "do fairies actually exist?" alive.

And while I normally skip over these sections, I would highly recommend you read the author's notes and the bonus materials at the back. It turns out that the author consulted with Frances' daughter, Christine, and the book reflects what Christine and Frances believed. Given that this is a novelisation of the story of two real people, I thought that this was a very thoughtful and respectful move.

If you're interested in fairies and the Cottingley photographs, you should definitely pick up this book.


  1. I am eager to read this book. I am familiar with the real life story of the sisters and the hoax, and am curious how Hazel Gaynor translate it to fiction. I am glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Hope you get a chance to read it! I thought it was very good(:


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