Review: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

When you first glimpse the cover of this book, it doesn’t shout ‘magical realism’. It shouts ‘family saga’. At least to me it does.

Admittedly, I skimmed the review pitch very lightly and didn’t really pay close attention to it because like it or not, I knew I would review this one based on the cover and title.

It just sounded like a title that said ‘family saga’ in the vein of Kate Morton for some reason. Then you add in that cover and there you have it, I was convinced at face value that this was a family saga (something that I love).

So imagine my surprise when there were fairies and magic in this book.

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? (summary from Goodreads).

As I mentioned, I thought this was going to be something completely different. However had I read the review pitch in it’s entirety, I probably would have still reviewed it because I like magical realism novels plus you add in my favorite time period (Edwardian era), and it would have been up for review on my calendar one way or the other–I just happened to think it was something else entirely.

This book was a treat though. She has a beautiful story telling style which captivated me almost immediately. I haven’t read anything by her before so this was a completely new author to me. I loved that the author took some historic, real events and incorporated them into a story with magical elements. That’s one of the things that I love about magical realism books–the gentle and subtle use of magic. It wasn’t over done in any way.

Reading this book was a complete surprise to me, it wasn’t what I expected but the story and characters drew me in. I was enchanted by tone of the over all novel. It was at times sad but yet in a strange way uplifting. It made me feel good but yet tugged at the heart strings. I love books like that.

This was an easy 5 star review for me. I loved it and read it in only a matter of days. It was a pleasant surprise in the closing days of my summer reading. Put on a pot of tea and get ready to get lost and enjoy this one! truly a book you can lose yourself in!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

  • Kindle Edition, 384 pages
    Published August 1st 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks
    ASIN B01N3O9X8V
  • Review copy provided by: Publisher/Author in exchange for an honest review

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 5 out of 5

Genre: Magical realism, historical fiction, fantasy

Memorable lines/quotes:


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