Monday, August 7, 2017

TLC Book Review: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Publisher: William Morrow
Pub. Date: August 1, 2017
Pages: 416

Genre: Historical Fiction / Brit Lit / Magical Realism


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?

What Did I Think About the Story?

Even though I've always been a pretty logic-based person, I will admit that I've got a soft spot for stories about fairies or, at the very least, for the idea of these magical and mischievous creatures.  A year or so after graduating from high school I went to visit family in Scotland and, while the whole country is simply enchanting, nothing was more so than the Isle of Skye. On Skye is a place called the Fairy Glen and, let me just tell you, it exudes such as otherworldly feeling that it's not hard to imagine that fairies, gnomes, and the like might possibly be peaking at you, just out of sight. It's been years since I've been there but I've never forgotten about it and can't wait to someday go back!

With this being said, imagine my excitement when I first caught sight of the cover for The Cottingley Secret and, after being totally drawn in by that cover, read on to discover it was about the possible discovery of fairies! I will admit that, as much as I love history, especially British History, I had never heard of the Cottingley fairies or the controversy that surrounded them. Were they real? Were the two girls who claimed to photograph them actually passing off a huge hoax? Once I read the synopsis I was hooked and new I needed to dig into this story to discover as much as I could about these Cottingley fairies and to see how that story would relate to the one told in the present time period.

While I own a number of novels by Hazel Gaynor this was, in fact, my first reading of her work. Now that I'm done with the story I want to kick myself for waiting so long. Gaynor's writing was absolutely beautiful and her descriptions of both the gardens and woodlands in Cottingley and the seaside town in Ireland where Olivia's story mostly takes place are absolutely breathtaking. I was fully transported to these bewitching locales and I admit I didn't really want to leave. Especially when it came to Olivia's setting: what booklover wouldn't give an arm and a leg to own a seaside cottage bookstore in Ireland, one that sells rare and old books no less?! Can't you just smell the delicious scents of old leather and vanilla? When I was immersed within The Cottingley Secret I sure could!

I'm not going to ruin anything by saying here whether Frances and Elise really saw fairies or whether their photographs were authentic or not, but what I will say is that I absolutely love how Gaynor presented this bewitching dilemma. The fact that the photos came into being at a time when so many hoped and wished that they could be true - if for no other reason than that meant that there was the possibility of other dimensions where their loved ones, lost in the war or by some other event, might exist - made the truth something of a moot point. Still, how exciting would it be if they were real? What would you do, if you were the person who discovered them, to prove you were telling the truth? All of this and more is contemplated within these pages and I, for one, absolutely loved going along for the journey.

Something else I really enjoyed was discovering how these two storylines were connected. I will admit that I had an idea of how some of the characters were connected, however there were still quite a few I didn't see and that made my overall appreciation of the story that much stronger. I found it all quite touching, especially Olivia's situation and her journey towards finding herself again and becoming happy, and I can't really think of any better way everything could have come together.

The Cottingley Secret has it all: excellent, well developed characters, stunning locations, memorable and touching stories. There's even a wonderful P.S. section at the back that includes author's notes, a note written by Frances's daughter, and the photos that started so much controversy. I absolutely love this story and plan on making time to read lots more by Hazel Gaynor. Highly recommended!

What Did I Think About the Cover?

This might be my favorite cover of the year! When I began posting Cover Crushes every Thursday earlier this year this was actually my very first could it not be?! With that storybook cottage, dense and twisty plants, and overall haziness I can see why someone would look at this view and think fairies do exist. Absolutely breathtaking cover!

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

 Thank you to HarperCollins Publishing and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of The Cottingley Secret in exchange for an honest review. Continue on below for more information about the book, the author, and the tour!

Advance Praise for The Cottingley Secret

“Beautifully written and expertly researched, Gaynor’s latest is a look at one of history’s most intriguing mysteries and an important reminder of the power of belief.”—Booklist *Starred* Review

“[Gaynor] creates a lovely meditation on the power of belief and hope.”—Kirkus

“The characters are charming and enigmatic…Gaynor does a terrific job intermixing fact with fiction in The Cottingley Secret.”—RT Book Reviews

“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

“There is real magic in these pages. And beauty. And heart.”—Nicole Mary Kelby, author of The Pink Suit

“I adored The Cottingley Secret, which shifts between a bookstore in present-day Ireland and an actual account from the World War I era of two girls who claimed to have seen fairies—and Captured them on film. Gaynor has penned in majestic prose an enchanting and enthralling tale of childhood magic, forgotten dreams, and finding the parts of ourselves we thought were lost forever.”—Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale

“Richly imagined and terrifically enchanting, Hazel Gaynor’s The Cottingley Secret is an enthralling tale where memories serve as lifelines for the living, and the unseen is made real. Reading this novel is akin to finding hidden treasure—each character, a friend; each chapter, a revelation.”—Ami McKay, author of The Witches of New York

Buy the Book


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.

Find out more about Hazel at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Cottingley Secret Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, August 1st: View from the Birdhouse
Wednesday, August 2nd: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, August 2nd: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, August 3rd: Reading is My Super Power
Thursday, August 3rd: Book by Book
Friday, August 4th: A Splendidly Messy Life
Monday, August 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, August 7th: A Literary Vacation
Tuesday, August 8th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, August 9th: Just Commonly
Thursday, August 10th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, August 11th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, August 14th: Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, August 15th: A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, August 16th: I Wish I Lived in a Library


  1. I love this cover, too, and have the book on my TBR list.

    1. Oh I hope you get the chance to read it and love it as much as I did! It's really quite wonderful!

  2. I'm so happy to see your rave review! This book calls to me for SO many reasons, and I'm thrilled to see that it lives up to all my expectations!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

    1. Oh my gosh, Heather, I bet you will love it!!! THanks for letting me be a part of the tour!