This is Hazel Gaynor’s fourth book and undoubtedly my favourite so far.
It is hard not to fall in love with this magical story which makes you want to stay amongst her world of fairies forever.
The story is told in dual story lines with one starting with a character called Frances in 1917, and another named Olivia in present day Ireland.
Nine-year-old Frances and her mother arrive in Cottingley, England from South Africa to stay with family whilst her father fights in the First World War.
She fast becomes friends with her cousin Elsie, who introduces her to fairies who they see dancing before their eyes. Both girls are enthralled by their magic. They take photos of them - photos which will later come back to haunt them.
Because this story is based on the real-life experiences of real people, Elsie and Frances, it adds another dimension to the book.
The fictional part of the story is the second story-line. It is present day Ireland and Olivia’s beloved grandfather has died, leaving her an old bookshop in Dublin.
It comes at a time when Olivia’s engagement and future life is unraveling which means that not only must she figure out what to do with the cottage and bookshop that she has been left, but also what to do with her life.
It isn’t immediately clear how the stories are connected, but when Olivia finds the story of Frances and Elsie among her grandfather's possessions, it takes her down an unexpected path where the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present.
It’s not often that you read a dual storyline where both stories and characters appeal, but you’ll find it hard not to fall in love with both characters as the story unfolds.
There are also some really beautiful reminders of how simple life was when children used their imagination, played freely, and saw beauty in nature. In addition, Gaynor’s prose is just beautiful – I fell in love with Gaynor’s love of history and crafting true stories into beautiful books when I read her first book ‘The Girl Who Came Home’.
I thought she couldn’t write better until I fell in love with ‘Memories of Violet’ and ‘The Girl from the Savoy’ where the characters engulf you so deeply that you don’t want to let them go.
But it’s in The Cottingley Secret where Gaynor has come into her own with her stunning writing that brings the story to life.
"The awful reality of his absence hit her, ripping through the shop like a brick through glass, sending broken memories of happier times skittering across the creaky floorboards to hide in dark grief-stricken corners.
"He wasn't there, and yet he was everywhere: in every cracked spine, on every dusty shelf, in the warped glass at the windows and the mustard-yellow walls.
Something Old wasn't just a bookshop. It was him—Pappy—in bricks and mortar, leather and paper. He'd loved this place so much, and Olivia knew she must now love it for him."
"I think the books come alive at night when the shop is closed and the lights are turned out, I think they open their covers and fan out their pages like wings and start to fly. Imagine it.
Hundreds of books, flapping their pages, soaring and swooping because they're so alive with stories they can't possibly sit still on the shelf."
This is a delightful story that will warm the heart and leave you smiling. It’s like a snuggly jumper on a cold winter’s night.
Get the kids back to school, grab a cup of tea and curl up with this wonderful read.
To celebrate the release of The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor, we have two copies to give away. Email hello[at]mummypages.ie with "The Cottingley Secret" in the subject line to be in with a chance of winning. Competition open until the end of the month. Good luck x