I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
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?
My thanks to my Goodreads friends Melissa and Rory, whose reviews pointed me towards this lovely book.
It was a nearly perfect book for me—first, there is the question of what Frances has actually seen. In her mind, she has seen fairies and I found myself wanting so much to believe her! Having spent many long hours as a child playing outdoors, watching all that went on around me, I always longed for a special experience such as hers.
Secondly, there is the link to the real world—Frances and Elsie were real girls who did create fairy photographs that fooled many people, including Arthur Conan Doyle! And I can’t say I blame them—after all, I just admitted above how much I wanted to believe in Frances’ fairies. At the end of WWI, many people were looking for evidence of life after death and having lost dear folk myself, I can sympathize with that wish.
Thirdly, there is a present day story which takes place around the story of Frances and Elsie. Olivia Kavanagh is dealing with the grief of losing a beloved grandparent (who has stood in a parental role to her) and dealing with his store and his belongings. Her grandmother has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t always know Olivia when she visits. I identified strongly with her grief and her desire to escape from her London life while she sorted things out. I’ve sorted out the contents of our farm house and know exactly how difficult such an endeavour can be.
Lastly, I loved the unresolved ending. Frustrating to some, to me they reflect reality. Until we also pass on, we only have the ending until now. There is more to come tomorrow.
An enchanting, beautiful book which I am ever so glad that I found.