Tag Archives: Hazel Gaynor

Review of NETGALLEY arc The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

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I’m not normally a fan of long blurbs, but this one manages to neatly sum up a fairly complex story without giving away any major spoilers, so for once, I’m not going to prune it…

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?

And there you have it. Two timelines interweaving throughout the story with the major protagonists being young, dreamy Frances, displaced and pining for her father during the long war years. And dreamy, older Olivia, also somehow displaced from her own life after devastating news leaves her questioning everything and everyone in her life so far – and find it wanting.

The real challenge of writing such a book is to adequately balance both story strands so the reader isn’t rushing through one to get back to the other. And in this case, Gaynor has succeeded beautifully. At no stage did I find myself skim-reading through any section to get to another – despite skimming being one of my vices as a reader. So it is a tribute to the quality of Gaynor’s characterisation that both the lonely little girl and isolated twenty-something equally held me.

The other temptation in a story of this nature – particularly this specific story, given the scads that has already been written and said about it – is to either sensationalise or sentimentalise what occurred. Again, I admire Gaynor’s restraint – she could have revelled in the fuss and fame those photographs generated and allowed that to power the narrative. However, she also resisted that temptation, too. So what we have is a beautifully told tale of two hurt, sensitive people seeking refuge in something else outside their daily round. One of the joys of this book is that Gaynor’s writing has a lyrical quality that makes her descriptions of that small brook where Frances played alongside her fairies sing off the page. While her descriptions of the old, second-hand bookshop is equally vivid, so that I not only visualised the shop, I could smell the books, too.

When two narrative timelines run alongside each other, the other imperative is that the ending has to connect them to the readers’ satisfaction – and once again, Gaynor triumphantly succeeds in doing this. It isn’t a fantasy or paranormal tale, or a historical adventure – neither is it a contemporary romance, but it manages to interleave all these aspects into a wonderful, unusual story and is recommended for anyone who enjoys any of the above.
9/10

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Sunday Post – 7th January, 2018

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

And there it is – the Christmas celebrations all over. Was New Year’s Eve only last week? The grandchildren and my sister were all sleeping over and for the first time, the children stayed up with us to see the new year in. So we were very lazy on New Year’s Day. When we all eventually surfaced, I took my sister home and the children and I slumped on the sofa together and binge-watched Harry Potter films – I’d forgotten how good they were…

On Tuesday, I took them to the local leisure centre so they could have a go at Clip and Climb – there are a series of different climbing walls which they tackled. My granddaughter has been several times before, but it was the first time for my grandson. They both thoroughly enjoyed themselves and then we went shopping, despite the shocking weather. The following day, they returned home as they were due to start school again on Thursday.

I needed to get down to some serious work, but before I did, we took down the Christmas decorations and all the lights. It’s a chore I hate, as the house always looks sad and bare without all the tinsel and bright coloured lights banishing the gloom of the long nights and short, rainy days.

I was back teaching on Friday – it was lovely to see Tim and catch up on his Christmas. We had a great lesson – and then yesterday, I was busy finalising the paperwork and getting all my files organised for teaching my Creative Writing classes at Northbook. I’m delighted to be running three courses this term with only a few vacancies left on the Tuesday evening session.

Today, Mhairi is due to come round for the day and we’ll be working alongside each other and catching up with our writing.

This week I have read:

Subversive by Paul Grzegorzek
London, 2123. A century after ebola-bombs decimated the population, PC Sean Weaver of the Combined Police Force is a drone operative tasked with enforcing the Government’s dictatorial rule. Nearly anything and everything is considered Subversive and the people huddle behind ever-watched walls, under threat of forced labour on The Farms for the smallest infraction. Trust is nearly impossible to come by and terrorists could be anywhere. Trapped within this oppressive regime, Sean has to make do with small, secretive acts of rebellion lest he end up on The Farms himself. Until, that is, the day he witnesses the mass murder of hundreds of civilians. Events quickly spiral out of control, propelling him into a bloody and brutal conflict where he finds himself faced with the ultimate choice. Accept his fate and bury the truth, or fight back and become… Subversive.

This was a foot-to-the-floor sci fi adventure, with a twisting plot that kept producing yet another surprise just when I figured I knew what was going on. I thoroughly enjoyed this dystopian thriller that, in places, reminded me of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor
1917: When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, announce they have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when the great novelist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, endorses the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a sensation; their discovery offering something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war.
One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript and a photograph in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story of the two young girls who mystified the world. As Olivia is drawn into events a century ago, she becomes aware of the past and the present intertwining, blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, will Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

I loved this one. The novel is woven around an actual story about two young girls who took some pictures of fairies – for years they were deemed real and caused a sensation. I recall seeing the special programme that Nationwide ran in the 1970s about it. This version flips between the story told through the viewpoint of Frances, one of the girls, and Olivia, a young woman at a crucial point in her life. Gaynor is clearly a very able writer, with a strong lyrical style that worked with this delightful story.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 31st December 2017

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – How Did I Do?

Teaser Tuesday – 2nd January 2018 featuring Subversive by Paul Grzegorzek

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett

Friday Face-off – I must go down to the sea again… featuring Goddess of the Sea – Book 1 of the Goddess Summoning series by P.C. Cast

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Shadow Weaver – Book 1 of the Shadow Weaver series by MarcyKate Connolly

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

How to Self Publish; Or, We Should Be Writing https://fantasy-hive.co.uk/2017/11/we-should-be-writing/ This excellent article is a real help to those of us a bit overwhelmed with the business of trying to engage in all the marketing we indie authors have to get involved in

Have You Heard Of Libib? It’s the Online Book Cataloguing Website of my Dreams! http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2015/01/25/have-you-heard-of-libib-its-the-online-book-cataloging-website-of-my-dreams/ I really like the sound of this one – and as Tammy explains how it can help those of us whose books need sorting out

2018 – what to look forward to (space-wise) http://earthianhivemind.net/2018/01/04/2018-look-forward-space-wise/ An excellent round-up by Steph of a number of exciting developments that will continue to unfold during the coming year

2018 – Are You Happy? https://roamwildandfree.com/2018/01/02/2018-are-you-happy/ In the middle of all our resolutions and goal setting, Becca asks this important, fundamental question

A New Reading Challenge https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2018/01/04/a-new-reading-challenge/ In amongst all the reading challenges coming at readers and book bloggers, this one particularly caught my eye because it is just SO simple. Read books from your shelf…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and wishing you all a happy, successful 2018!