Monday, March 21, 2022

Review: THE COTTINGLEY SECRET by Hazel Gaynor


Rating: 4/5 stars

If you enjoy dual timeline narratives that are inexplicably connected, one story set in the past and one story set in the present, and you enjoy fairies and the whimsy of childhood, then you should check out The Cottingley Secret.

I originally picked up this book because I thought it sounded similar to the kinds of books that Kate Morton writes, and I absolutely love her stories. While there are some similarities in the fact that there are two POVs from two time periods that are somehow linked together, this book just had a different feel to it. There wasn’t that deep mysterious component or the endless unexpected plot twists like Morton’s books have. 

Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed this story for what it is.

Olivia, in the present day, inherits her grandfather’s failing bookshop after he passes away, and she’s going through his things when she finds an old journal that talks about fairy sightings with a subsequent photograph to accompany it. 

In the early 1900s during the First World War, cousins Elsie and Frances photograph fairies in their garden, and the photographs garner national acclaim as the girls convince everyone that the fairies are real. 

As much as I enjoyed the historical narrative following Elsie and Frances, it was Olivia’s story that I was most drawn to. I love the idea of inheriting an old bookshop and being able to rifle through everything—just imagine what you could find in there! Plus Olivia’s story has a tiny bit of romance in it, which I honestly just loved. 

I found out, after I finished reading The Cottingley Secret, that this book is based on a true story! Cottingley is a real place in England, and cousins Elsie and Frances really did exist and really did take photographs of fairies there (you can easily find copies of them online). I would recommend reading this book before looking up anything about the story online though, as the internet will inevitably spoil the end of the book for you. 

Overall, I found this to be a really charming story. I’ve always loved fairies and I used to pretend I could see them when I was little, so reading a book about two young girls believing in them and convincing others to believe in them satisfied that bit of nostalgic magic that lives in all of us as children. I think this book is even more interesting knowing it’s based on actual history, and I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a different kind of historical fiction book with just a little bit of magic. 

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