Tag Archives: Books

Ruminations on fairies I have known

TL;DR: I love fairies and I thoroughly enjoyed the book The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor. Possible spoilers in the review which is much farther down the page. Sorry — I have a backstory…

When I was young — maybe 10 — I had an invisible friend. My invisible friend was not your average invisible friend; she was a fairy. I was not very original because I called her Tinkerbell, apparently she was descended from the original Tinkerbell. I am not talking about Disney’s Tinkerbell here, but the actual Tinkerbell from the Peter Pan story. My favorite character was Tinkerbell and at some point I decided that Tinkerbell’s granddaughter or great-granddaughter decided to live in my house and be my best friend. She eventually brought a friend for my brother. He named her Daisy. He’s holding her in his left hand in the picture to the right.

In grade school I wrote a very bad story about Fairyland.

However, as much as I loved fairies (and as much time I spent in West Riding Yorkshire) I didn’t hear about the Cottingley Fairies until the late 1980s. A few years later I bought and read Photographing Fairies when I saw a review about it in the Washington Post. I also saw the film version of the book. A few years after that I took the kids to see A Fairy Tale: The True Story.

In 2002 we visited England and stopped to spend some time with my old pal Jeremy and his family who remarked that the village of Cottingley was not far from one of the stops on a day-trip we were planning, so we spent a couple hours in the village, looking for fairies. I’d not put two and two together to realize that Cottingley was very close to the town of Horsforth where I’d spent several weeks over a few summers as a teen and young adult. It annoys me that I didn’t know about the Cottingley fairies at the time because I know that Jeremy’s dad would have taken me there — I think it was even closer to where some of Jeremy’s relatives lived, folks we visited at least once.

Clare and I have made two fairy gardens and I’ve got a pair of fairies among the ivy on an old maple tree in the back yard. In 2008 we visited a real fairyland in Ireland. I won’t even begin talking about the gnomes.

Anyway — that’s the background. Here’s the rest of the story (or not, at least up to now):

On Facebook one day, I saw an advertisement for a book by an author I’d never heard of. I normally ignore advertisements, but this one was for a book called The Cottingley Secret. Of course I clicked on the advertisement and of course I immediately purchased and downloaded the book.

I was still reading The Keeper of Lost Things so it was a few days before I got to The Cottingley Secret. I liked the book a lot — at first I was disappointed that it was not 100% about the cousins in Cottingley, but then I really got to like the present-time story. That one of the “characters” in the book was a bookstore made it even better!

Books that unfold slowly, showing connections between people from different places or times intrigue me. The Cottingley Secret is one of those books and Ms Gaynor does it well. She also developed her main characters, present and past, well — except for her grandmother, but perhaps that was intentional since the grandmother was stricken with Alzheimer’s*.

The book enchanted me and firmly held my attention from the first page to the last, and ended up reading far into the wee hours of the morning to finish. I feel that this book has added to my love of the Cottingley fairy story — given it depth. Someone in the book said something about people that heard the story and wanted to believe it, shaped it the way they wanted it (or something like that). For me, everything I have read about it, including Arthur Conan Doyle’s account, is slightly different, yet all familiar. So the story I carry in my heart about the Cottingley fairies is different from the one someone else might carry because of what I have read and my personal history with fairies.

I have to wonder though, why Mrs. Hogan, who believed her daughter was carried off by fairies, was not more worried about Frances spending so much time at a known fairy hangout.


Spoiler (and the only criticism) below

*The account of Olivia’s grandmother’s death was not realistic to me. Having gone through my mother’s death of Alzheimer’s just last year, the memory is still very vivid. In the book the grandmother was well enough to talk coherently just before Olivia’s trip, but suddenly got worse when Olivia was on her trip and died shortly after Olivia rushed back to Ireland. In my mother’s case the time from being able to talk and make sense to death took months. I realize that the disease does not always follow the same path and for the story the longer path would have not made sense.

 

 

Declutter 2017: Aunt Ginny’s Book About Hunting Racoons

Today Dean forced asked me to go through the books that belong on the basement bookshelves. I did and found three book boxes full of books I was willing to donate. I found hundreds I am not ready to part with and I found about 40 that I want to examine more closely before making the ultimate decision toss or keep. (joy or no joy)

cooning with the cooners

One of these is a book by a D. Kuechler called Cooning With Cooners. At first I thought it said Crooning with Crooners and thought it might be about Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and company. But no. It was actually Cooning with Cooners and is about shooting raccoons. I assume that is what it is about because the cover drawing depicts a man with a gun pointing at a raccoon in a tree that a dog has spied and possibly chased up the tree. I have not read any of the book, nor do I plan on reading it.

Aunt Ginny's name and address

I wondered how I came to have a book (from 1924) about hunting raccoons, but then saw that it belonged to my Aunt Ginny. I still wonder how I ended up with it and why on Earth she was interested in hunting raccoons, but it will remain a mystery, I guess, unless she wanted to be a Lady Coon Hunter as described in a chapter written by Mrs. R. J. Merrick.

Lady Coon Hunters

I’ll likely send this to Uncle Jack along with two books I found that belonged to him as a child. He can decide what to do with Cooning with the Cooners.

A list of books

I posted this on Facebook after being “tagged” by at least 3 people to post a list of ten books that somehow influenced me. Mali suggested I post this on my blog. As I said on Facebook, I think the main connecting theme of my list is that I have vivid memories of reading each of them — and images in my mind of the characters, settings and plots. I can even feel the emotion I felt when reading each of the books.

1. Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn — this book opened my eyes to the civil rights movement. Many of the characters still live with me to this day.

2. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote — I read this in middle school. The images it evoked are still etched in my mind.

3. Dracula by Bram Stoker — the first non-young adult novel I ever read (in 7th grade). I adored stories about vampires and this was a classic.

4. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (she also wrote 101 Dalmatians) — “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink” is one of my favorite opening lines.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (Yes I know this is 7 books, but I consider it one large book) — I loved these books which I read in my teens, although my teacher read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to us in 6th grade. I’ve re-read several of the books since my first reading and shared them with my students and children.

6. Billy Brown the Babysitter by Tamara Kitt — the first book I ever read on my own. I remember suddenly being able to read and just read it.

7. My Bookhouse Books edited by Olive Beaupre Miller — another set of books, but each one was extremely important to me. These books made me a reader. I learned so much about literature from this set. The very best gift my parents ever gave me was this anthology set of 12 books (which seems to be available for purchase again! I wonder if it has been updated for political correctness.)

8. The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu — I received this book to review for a website before it was published. I didn’t have high hopes since it was written by a — then — unknown author, but absolutely loved it. I rarely re-read books, but have read this one a few times. I wrote the first Amazon review about this book. The next day I got to meet Mr. Mengestu. When I told him my name so he could sign my copy he recognized it and thanked me for the review.

9. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters — a well-written ghost story in which a house is a main character.

10. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson — I’d never read anything by Shirley Jackson except The Lottery but I liked the Gothic-like look of the cover of this book so bought it and read it. It is another book in which a house is a main character. Very well written and another book I re-read.