The Cottingley Secret

Written by Hazel Gaynor
Review by Susan McDuffie

In 1917, nine-year-old Frances Griffiths and her mother arrive in Cottingley, Yorkshire, from South Africa, to stay with her aunt, uncle and cousin Elsie while Frances’s father is at the front. Frances bonds with the 16-year-old Elsie and enjoys spending hours at the rushing stream, or beck, behind her relatives’ property. Within a few months Frances and Elsie claim to have captured fairies in photos taken with Uncle Albert’s camera. Are the photos real, or just a clever hoax? Over the next few years the story gains momentum as a war-weary world looks for hope.

In the present day, Olivia arrives in Ireland after the death of her beloved grandfather. She finds he has left her his antiquarian bookshop—and a manuscript, written by Frances Griffiths, that tells her story of what really happened one hundred years earlier. But Olivia has her own problems to deal with, including a fast approaching marriage to a “Mr. Right” who may not be so perfect after all. Hazel Gaynor ties Olivia’s story to that of Frances and Elsie in this new novel. I devoured the book in one day.

Who doesn’t secretly want to believe in fairies? The Cottingley fairy story remains as compelling now as it was one hundred years ago, when a traumatized world, tired of conflict and death, was all too eager to believe in these delicate, winged beings. Frances and Elsie’s story sweeps us along with it, and Olivia’s portion provides a nice modern frame for the tale. Both readers who believe in fairies and those who are more skeptical will enjoy this novel, as will those who are curious about the Cottingley incident. Recommended.