The Cottingley Secret, image taken from Hazel Gaynor's website
The Cottingley Secret, image taken from Hazel Gaynor's website

What is it about?

1917. Two young cousins find fairies at the bottom of the garden and photograph them, providing a touch of magic for a country destroyed by the brutalities of war. But soon, the popularity of the photographs gets out of hand …

One hundred years later, Olivia Kavanagh inherits her grandfather’s bookshop and discovers the story of the two cousins in the fairy photographs. She has more of a connection with the story than she had thought, and the past and the present intertwine. 

Some Quotes

"As the fortunes of the bookshop hung in the balance, Olivia’s dreams intensified, taking her on curious night time meanderings toward woodland streams where a little girl offered her a white flower, and when she woke, she felt a strange sense of disquiet, a sense that something was unsettled."

"That night in the dark hush of the bedroom, I let my thoughts wander back down the cellar steps and out along the garden path, through the gate and down to the little stream where I walked over dew-wet grass, my eyes tipped toward the violet sky, somewhere between the end of night and the start of morning. I heard the sound of birdsong and laughter, bells ringing in the distance, and the steady rush and tumble of the waterfall. I saw flashes of green, then blue as I felt myself being lifted, my feet dancing on air."

My Thoughts

I thought this was a beautiful book. It was not my usual dark and gothic read, even though it had elements of the supernatural. It was a moving novel, and the ending even made me cry! There were lots of moments of lightness, and there was romance in Olivia’s chapters, which made me invest even more in the characters. It is about the power of belief, and following your heart and your dreams.

This book is based on true events (apart from the Olivia sections, which are completely fictitious), and Hazel Gaynor has captured the people and the time superbly, with compassion and understanding. The notes at the end are an added bonus which reveal how she came to write this story, the facts, and the photographs.

Altogether, an intriguing story with beautiful language. It was easy to read and would make a wonderful holiday novel.

There are plenty of good reviews of it on Goodreads. It averages a score of 3.88 out of 5 stars. Many people say it was a ‘magical book’, ‘charming’ and ‘whimsical’. Of course, it was not everyone’s cup of tea. Some said the story dragged, was predictable, or was a bit too ‘sweet’.

Who is it for?

Not for die-hard gothic fans! It is sweet and gentle. It is about loss and finding hope. It is about love and self-discovery. It is a brilliant light holiday read that takes you back to the nostalgia of childhood when anything could be possible. It’s for anyone who loves Irish and Yorkshire countryside, old bookshops, and, of course, fairies! 

The Author

"Hazel Gaynor is a New York Times bestselling, award-winning historical novelist, who lives in County Kildare, Ireland with her husband and two children.

In autumn 2018, Hazel will release The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter, a novel inspired by the true events surrounding the life of Victorian lighthouse keeper, Grace Darling."

Find out more about Hazel Gaynor and her work by visiting her website here

About the author

Delphine Woods - Enthusiastic, budding author