Book Review: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Posted August 3, 2017 by meezcarrie in contemporary, Hazel Gaynor, historical, romance / 23 Comments

about the book

“The Cottingley Secret tells the tale of two girls who somehow convince the world that magic exists. An artful weaving of old legends with new realities, this tale invites the reader to wonder: could it be true?” — Kate Alcott, New York Times bestselling author of The Dressmaker

One of BookBub’s Most-Anticipated Books of Summer 2017! 

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?

goodreads button RIMSP

GENRE: Timeslip Fiction, Magical Realism
PUBLISHER: William Morrow
RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2017
PAGES: 416

“…each of the women in her life had kept turning the page, living another chapter, forming the provenance that she would, one day, inherit.”

This may be my favorite general market read of the year and it’s certainly going on my ‘best of 2017’ list! Its creative take on the increasingly popular time-slip genre as well as the author’s gift for setting and the dash of magical realism makes this a very difficult book to put down. (And bonus for my Christian/clean fiction readers – it’s clean!!)

The Cottingley Secret follows Olivia Kavanagh as she processes her grandfather’s death and sorts through the bookshop – and the memories – she’s inherited in Ireland. Her grandmother is still alive but is trapped in a fog of Alzheimer’s, though Olivia visits her faithfully. (side note: I treasured those scenes as they reminded me of my own visits with my grandmother who also suffered from Alzheimer’s ♥) The other inheritance that her grandfather left for her is a manuscript – a memoir, really – that took place 100 years in the past. As Olivia explores Frances Griffiths’ and Elsie Wright’s story of fairies and photographs and a missing girl (all based on true events), she finds herself connected to them on a level she did not anticipate. And what it reveals to her about her own choices proves life-changing.

I loved everything about this book – from the legacy Olivia has been given to the dusty rare-books shop to Ross and Iris and the way they amiably invade Olivia’s life. The history geek in me fell in love with the story of Frances and Elsie and their fairy photographs from Cottingley, especially Arthur Conan Doyle’s role. And the bookworm in me fell in love with the ‘Something Old’ bookstore and Ireland in general. And Iris ♥ . I can’t forget to mention the adorable little girl who works her way into Olivia’s heart – and mine.

“…of all the little girls she had ever met, she couldn’t think of one who was more deserving of her wish to come true than little Iris Bailey in her red wellies.”

Bottom Line: The Cottingley Secret is beautifully written, with history and magical realism weaving a captivating spell between the pages. A hint of sweet romance, and a tender message of legacy and family makes the story all the more compelling. Olivia is an engaging heroine, and the cast of supporting characters (both past and present) will settle in your heart and linger for a while. If you like Sarah Addison Allen, Kate Morton, Kristy Cambron, and/or Melanie Dobson, this needs to be high on your TBR list!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 5 stars / Fantastic read!

KissingBook Level: 2 / Warm rosy glow of sweetness

See what others are saying: TLC Book Tours

amazon button RIMSP B&N button RIMSP


about the author

Photo by Deasy Photographic

HAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel The Girl from the Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris will be published in 2017.

Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland.

website | Facebook | Twitter

What about you? What part of this book intrigues you the most?

Tags: , , ,

23 responses to “Book Review: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

  1. Debra E. Marvin

    Oh. My. This one is the type of story I want to devour! Thanks for sharing it, Carrie. I haven’t heard of it before.
    So nice to learn of Hazel and her fiction.

  2. Kim

    I normally do not read general fiction BUT you have talked me into this one Carrie! I love your reviews.

    • Carrie

      thanks Kim 🙂 There was nothing that would make me hesitate to recommend this to my Christian fic readers!

  3. Susan C

    This is definitely a book I want to read. Historical fiction is my favorite genre. It is wonderful when general market books are relatively clean. Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. Rachael

    I’ve read Doyle’s The Coming of the Fairies (having read enough Sherlock Holmes fiction to see Sir Arthur slammed over and over again for that particular nonfiction book, and needing to see what the fuss was about). He seriously seems to believe fairies exist (granted, he was a spiritualist, falling for unexplained phenomena left and right, including believing that Houdini had power over spirits even though the man told him time and again it was illusion).

    Anyway, it is the driest book on fairies I have ever read. But I’d definitely be up for reading a fictional version of the events!

Leave a Reply