Books

The Cottingley Secret – Hazel Gaynor

Do you know the story of the Cottingley Fairies? I did, but actually knew very little – my knowledge almost being summed up in a couple of sentences and nothing more.

This book takes me deep into the story, but put all your prior knowledge and assumption aside, this is a tale of two girls.

Frances Griffiths comes to stay with her Aunt and Uncle and cousin Elise Wright in Cottingley, whilst her father is at war – the year is 1917.

There are myths, local stories of some sort of presence that has been seen at the beck, at the bottom of Elise’s garden mean that Frances is drawn there.

When the fairies are captured by photograph – it astounds some and for others they are nonplussed by the event. When a leading author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle takes up the story Elsie and Frances are drawn into a world which is no longer in their control.

100 years later, it is 2017 and Olivia finds an old manuscript when she is left her grandfather’s book shop. It takes her on a journey to heal her heart, find her place in the world and also to Cottingley where the events of the past seem to have something to do with Olivia and the present.

THis is a wonderful dual narrative novel which has mystical qualities in both storylines which interweave. I was entranced by the present day story and of course Olivia’s world of working in a bookshop is any avid readers dream. I was surprised at the story of Frances and Elise and learnt a lot – but one of the overriding things this story has left me with – is why it was taken to the nations hearts so much, why did people claim quite clearly that this was no hoax in any way. War does many things to many people. The loss that was felt and the belief that perhaps there is something out there.

A skilful fairy story weaved by a skilful storyteller.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Cottingley Secret is out now. 

By Elsie Wright (1901–1988)