“As Pappy always said, possibility is where all the best stories begin.” It’s those possibilities that made me pick up this novel. At a time when the world around me seems to be imploding, I desperately needed a bit of magic. I didn’t realize at the time how perfect, and how restorative, this novel would be.
In 1917 the world was at war, and no one felt safe. Nine-year-old Frances and her mother have left their home in South Africa and journeyed to Yorkshire, England to stay with family while Frances’ father is fighting at the front. Frances’ life is in turmoil; uprooted, separated from her father and knowing that he faced danger daily, she finds tranquility at the beck (a mountain stream), behind her house. As she sits and contemplates the waterfall and tumbling stream she sees flashes of color that eventually solidify…into fairies.
In present day Ireland, Olivia’s life is similarly falling to pieces. Her grandparents raised her after the death of her mother, and now her Nana has Alzheimer’s, her Pappy has died, and she’s having second, third, and fourth thoughts about her upcoming marriage to Jack. As Olivia is cleaning out her grandparents’ cottage and bookshop she discovers a photo depicting a young girl posed behind a trio of fairies and a manuscript entitled Notes on a Fairy Tale, by Frances Griffiths. Olivia escapes into the story, and discovers a real life mystery.
Told in the voices of Frances and Olivia, this novel is well thought out, the plot moves at a steady pace, and the characters of Frances and Olivia are very well developed. I have never before highlighted so many passages in a single book. The language Gaynor uses is illustrative, painting a picture with sentences so descriptive that I felt as if I was there, looking on the scene and seeing into Olivia and Frances’ hearts. The novel resonated with me on so many levels, and I cannot stop thinking about it. The Cottingley Secret pulled me in and wrapped me in magical cotton wool, protecting me from reality and making the edges of everything soft. It’s a perfect book for stressful and anxious times, which I was in the midst of when I picked it up.
“’Tis make-believe keeps us going at times like this. We have to believe in the possibility of happy endings, sure we do, otherwise what’s it all for?”
Note: Though a digital Advance Reader Copy of this novel was given to me by the publisher, the thoughts and opinions expressed above are my own.