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The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor


Looking for a little bit of magic to start of your reading year? You may just find it in this latest book that Book Worm reviewed. Check it out…

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor
Published in: 2017
Reviewed by: Book Worm  and/or Jen
Rating: ★★★★★
Find it here: The Cottingley Secret

This ARC was provided by Harper Collins UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads; The 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

BookWorm’s Thoughts: This became my last book read in 2017 and if I had finished it a few days earlier, it definetely would have made my Top 10 list. This is a great book to read during the festive period as it is full of magic, love, and hope. That said, if like me you #wanttobelieve, then it would be a great read at any time of the year.

The magic in this book comes from 2 distinct sources — first and foremost from the fairies and secondly from the beautiful writing.

In 1917 two cousins fool the world with photos they claimed were genuine photos of fairies found in their backyard. It is decades later before they admit that 4 of the photos are faked, yet Frances still maintains that the 5th photo is genuine. In this book Gaynor imagines how the girls “discovered” their fairies, why they decided to fake them, and what could have happened had someone else known what they did. In the afterword the author reveals that the sections written by “Frances” about what happened are  based on the the actual writings that the real Frances wrote with the aim of one day telling her side of the story. Interesting Frances has always maintained that while the photos had been faked, the fairies were real and she never stopped believing even passing this firm belief in fairies onto her daughter.

In the modern day section based in Ireland the magic of the fairies is alive. Protagonist, Olivia, has inherited the Something Old bookshop from her grandparents. With the help of a young girl, a fairy door, and a belief in magic, the Something Old bookshop is revived and begins delighting readers again.  Seriously an olde bookshop with a magical window display that is alive!  I don’t care where it is I want to go!

The beautiful writing evokes the sense of magic throughout the novel. The easiest way to illustrate this is to share some of my favourite quotes with you. The magic also occurs in the descriptions of Olivia facing tough decisions and deciding who she wants to be, with people coming to terms with grief in the past and the present, and with characters opening their hearts and allowing love, magic, and hope to enter.

“They’re here Elsie. I can feel them. But like the soft breath of wind that brushes against my skin, the things we feel cannot always been seen.”

“You know my view of stories choosing the right readers at the right time.”

There’s magic in every bookshop,”

“On days like this, time wasn’t relevant. This was a day to be slowly absorbed, not swept away. Today was a pause before the page was turned and the story continued.”

Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone who wants to believe in a world where fairies exist and anyone who is interested in the history of the Cottingley fairies. I would say that if you are skeptical or unable to suspend disbelief, this may not be the book for you.

One last thing before I go — how could I write this review and not share the legendary photos with you? I couldn’t so here goes, picture 1 shows Frances and the fake fairies and picture 2 is the photo France insists is genuine look closely at the differences and see what you think…




Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: The Cottingley Secret

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think?

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. I haven’t read the book but as a teenager I did live near Cottingley and we would swing between being really cynical about the whole thing and secretly looking for fairies ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 8, 2018
  2. Great review! I’m super interested in this book and I really enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 8, 2018
  3. I wonder why the author chose to introduce that second strand about the bookshop owner. The sisters and their fairies seems strong enough to stand alone. Ther does seem a trend to hav these dual time narratives so maybe that was a factor?

    Liked by 1 person

    January 9, 2018
    • I enjoy dual time line narratives so this just made it appeal to me more, I think it might have needed the modern day aspect to flesh out the details made in the past section and it allowed for more artistic license in the story telling


      January 23, 2018
  4. This sounds great. My best friend lives in Cottingley, and the museum group I work for has in its collection the photographic prints that Conan Doyle presented publicly and the two cameras Frances and Elsie used to make the photographs. Here’s a blog post from a few years ago with more information

    Liked by 1 person

    January 20, 2018
    • Wow that is exciting what museum do you work for? I think if you want to believe this is a great book to read.


      January 23, 2018
      • I work at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. The Cottingley Fairy objects are at the Science and Media Museum in Bradford. I’m going to add this book to my wishlist.


        January 23, 2018
  5. I think my mom would love this!

    Liked by 1 person

    January 22, 2018
  6. Nicole R #

    I don’t know why, but i have never read anything by this author! She seems right up my alley, adding this to the TBR

    Liked by 1 person

    January 22, 2018
  7. Becca #

    I’m interested in this book! I’ve had the Cottingley Book of Pressed Fairies for years, and my girls love the Flower Fairy books. I didn’t quite realize that it was based on a true story of deception.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 23, 2018
    • If you love fairies and want to believe you should love this book 🙂


      January 23, 2018

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