Published: August 1, 2017
The 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 ?
I would classify book as “historical fiction” because the basic story is true. It’s hard to believe today in our world of instant gratification, social media, iPhones, and fake news but in 1917 it was a very different time and people needed a distraction from the seriousness of war and hard times and so found it easier to believe in the fairy story and also it happened in England, where fairies, gnomes and “the wee little people” were often discussed.
“In 1917, while the world was in the midst of a war, cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright staged photographs to make it appear that Frances was surrounded by fairies. Although they never intended for the faked photographs to be seen by anyone outside their family, the photos became famous enough that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle publicly claimed they were real. With so much attention directed toward them, Elsie and Frances promised to keep the truth a secret. One hundred years later, in the present day, Olivia Kavanagh inherits her grandfather’s bookshop in Ireland. But Olivia’s grandfather didn’t just leave her the bookshop—he also left a manuscript written by Frances, and it details exactly how (and more importantly, why) she and Elsie staged their photographs and maintained their hoax for so many years. Olivia has her own troubles to deal with—extracting herself from an unhappy engagement, caring for her ill grandmother, and facing a diagnosis of infertility—but she soon discovers that, as her grandfather told her, stories choose “the right readers at the right time.” Just as Frances realized that people needed to believe in fairies to find hope during WWI, Olivia finds that believing in a little bit of magic helps her reconnect with the woman she used to be. The insight into the true story of the Cottingley fairies is interesting, and it’s easy to understand why two girls might play along with an innocent trick that became a worldwide sensation. Olivia’s struggles are never quite as compelling, and readers may find themselves eager to slip back into the world of the fairies.” from Kirkus Review
It was a joy to read and if you want to read more about the actual story, here is a link complete with the photographs.