Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Cottingley Secret (Hazel Gaynor)

Usually, a book about a fairy hoax wouldn't attract me that much, but for some reason, I was drawn to Hazel Gaynor's The Cottingley Secret. This is the perfect read for it's just starting to get chilly outside and all you want to do is cozy up under a warm blanket.

The year is 1917 and the world is at war. While her father is one of those fighting, Frances and her mother make their way from South Africa to Cottingley, England, where they have family. One day, Frances and her cousin, Elsie, claim to have captured photographs of fairies at the beck, only the "fairies" are really paper cutouts that Elsie has drawn. Soon, they draw the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who insists that the photos are authentic and writes a piece about it in a magazine. The girls become a national sensation for those who desperately need something good to believe in in uncertain times.

You may be surprised to learn that all of this actually happened, but Gaynor weaves fictional characters, like Olivia Kavanagh, into her narrative to tell the girls' story. Olivia learns the story in modern days while she is taking over her late grandfather's bookshop. Soon, the timelines converge into a satisfying, hopeful conclusion.

While most of the Cottingley fairy pictures are a hoax, Frances has always insisted that she really did see fairies at the beck and that the fifth photograph is real. Gaynor does a wonderful job of telling the girls' story and reminding us that we could all use a little magic "fairy dust" now and then to help us get through hard times.