Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Hazel Gaynor - The Cottingley Secret

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?

Comment: Since I've liked another book by this author around two years ago, I've decided to read more of her work and that is how I've come to try this title as well.

In this dual time story, we follow two stories that are somewhat connected.
In the past story (1917) we have a strange plot featuring two cousins who seem to see fairies and they take a picture of them which later on becomes famous even if there are rumors that maybe the picture is not as real as many believed.
In the present story we follow Olivia, a young woman with some negative experiences in her life who inherits a bookshop and cottage in Ireland and she investigates some documents while dealing with is happening in her personal life.
How are both stories connected and why is Olivia know learning all this?

I liked this story but I must say, comparing to the other one I've read, it felt slightly weaker.
This is a dual timed story and we follow two stories simultaneously which are also connected somehow.
The story set in the past seems to be based on a real fact, the Cottingley fairies, something I confess I had never heard of before. The author uses it as the main theme to start of this plot. Apparently two girls in 1917 took a picture with fairies and many people believed it to be real until they were older and confessed how everything happened.

As usual, I tend to prefer one of the stories in this type of books. I think the past story was OK and interesting, considering the base for it, but to be honest I don't think it was as well done as it could. I can understand why the author decided to stick to a certain tone, especially if the details were based on real facts and it would have been too weird to stay too far from that. But although the fictional parts were well thought, I still think everything was a little too artificially done, almost as if we couldn't have it any other way. I just think this part wasn't as engaging to me as it could.

This obviously means I preferred the present time story. In here we follow Olivia, a woman who returns to Ireland to take care of her grandfather's bookshop and cottage after he dies. I liked this part better because I feel the emotions portrayed were stronger and better explained too. I could visualize Olivia and her issues with her doubts about her incoming marriage, her doubts about what her fiancé feels about her, her fears of losing her grandparents' cottage and bookshop. I did like her inner journey towards becoming a different and more confident woman. 
I also liked how her issues were dealt with and how the author used several well placed details here and there to better give us the idea of her evolution in the story.

How the two plots are connected isn't such a brilliant idea (it's no secret that a character from the past is part of Olivia's family) so there's no incredible secret here to grab the reader's attention. The value of this story is precisely the beauty of the prose and he situations surrounding the main characters.
This means that, to me, the story lost some impact it could have had and in terms of enjoyment, it was OK but not as amazing as it could. It was a good reading experience but not great.

Nevertheless, this was a good enough plot to follow and I liked how the end wasn't too sugary nor filled with miracles. I think the author did a good job letting things seem controlled which give us the impression there's a certain tone to keep up with what is happening.
Still, I'd have liked an even more emphasis on the contemporary story or, at least, in how the connection of the stories mattered, because I felt it wasn't just a huge deal. But still an entertaining story for certain.
Grade: 7/10

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