Tuesday, February 5, 2019

FEBRUARY 2019 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, The Cottingley Secret, Hazel Gaynor

 “Someday you’ll be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis

19 Bookers met at the home of Beverly Dossett to discuss this month’s selection, led by Daryl Daniels in her solo debut. Evident was she has not lost any of her teacher preparation skills as we enjoyed a timeline, photographs, fairy wings and a magic wand. Very well done Daryl…thank you for your insights! From our lively discussion (which is what we want) some Bookers would have liked to use that magic wand to go poof to the fairies. One of the complaints was that the fairy segment of the story was too drawn out, preferring the contemporary timeline with Olivia in the “Old Bookstore” and of course “hunky” Ross, Hemingway the cat, and precious Iris. Kirkus Reviews however wanted more fairies, less Olivia. Cups of tea! Personally, I’m not sure if one story could exist without the other, the author creating a cast of characters so deeply intertwined with each other, it would be “magical” if either story successfully stood on its own merit…the fairy tale had been documented already so writing about it alone would not have made any headlines…and how would the present-day story hold a reader’s interest beyond the bookstore, and a budding love affair. Gaynor expertly connected the past and the present, blurring the line between what is real and what is imagined.

Hazel Gaynor’s melodious prose leaped off the pages so the reader was immersed in the setting and emotion of the story as in this example of her writing of the loss of Olivia’s grandfather, “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.” Beautiful!

Although this is a true story, the question lingers why was it so believable not only to ordinary citizens of the British Isles, but to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame? We need only to look at the climate during the Great War to understand the desperation for something to hope for from those confined to the home front between 1914 and 1918. Fear, grief and sorrow dominated the family landscape as fathers left for distant battlefields while their children slept…300,000 never saw their Papas again and 160,000 wives were now widows. The government legislated unprecedented powers to intervene in people’s lives…overtaking any factory or workshop, imposing curfews and censorship, arresting anyone for “causing alarm” or discussing military matters in public. Pub hours were reduced, and beer watered down, suspicion of outsiders was high, and a woman suspected of having a venereal disease could be prosecuted and subjected to a gynecological exam for having sexual relations with a serviceman, even if he was her husband. The Daily Record summed it up by saying it was “not an uplifting spectacle to see this country descending to trivial and hysterical methods of vengeance.”  Children, vital to the war effort, often served as secret agents and pet dogs equipped with special tubes on their collars delivered messages from the British Secret Service. Pet pigeons flew long distances with news from the front lines. Goldfish even had a job – after gas attacks, the masks were washed and rinsed, and if the rinsing water killed a goldfish that was placed in it, that meant the masks still had poison on them.

Enter, two young girls, one camera, artistically drawn fairies and what started as an innocent prank sparked worldwide intrigue and a storm cloud over the heads of cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths residing in Cottingley, England. Suddenly, a war-ravaged nation had something to believe in and maybe the most important magic of all…finding parts of ourselves we thought lost forever and a way to believe in them. It was a time where people clung to anything hopeful – they wanted to believe in fairies and the spirit world…if fairies could visit from another realm, maybe their loved ones would too. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a personal reason to believe in the good in the world, as he lost his son in the war and never reconciled with the fact that he himself might have caused his death and the death of others as he was involved in writing war propaganda. It was his desperation and his credibility that led the “fairy charge.”

The other part of the novel is a present-day storyline featuring an Irish woman, Olivia Kavanagh, reeling from the death of her beloved grandfather, inheriting his failing bookshop and a manuscript titled “Notes on a Fairy Tale.” Her personal life is in shambles – she’s engaged to a man she doesn’t love, hiding from him that she is infertile, and is dealing with her Nana in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“The things we feel cannot always be seen.” They are often warm and fuzzy images from our own childhoods we experience again with our own children and grandchildren…who can forget the magic and anticipation of a visit from Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. 

                                                            On the business side:
We are happy to report Ann Ireland’s shoulder surgery went well and she is already out and about. Sheri Green’s appointment with the oncologist at MD Anderson went well and she will soon receive a chemotherapy “cocktail” in Dallas, designed to knock cancer to its knees. We all wish her well and as always, she and the family remain in our thoughts and prayers and a little dusting of fairy dust can’t hurt either.

Beverly Dossett, Katherine McDonald, Linda Thompson, Kittie Minnick, and Gayle Robinson have all committed to the Books in Bloom event on April 12th. Hopefully we can recruit 3 more to fill our Bookers’ table. If anyone has anything with a “camping” theme to please contact Beverly as they plan the décor for the table.

Our book selection committee (Pat Faherty, Katherine McDonald, and Melanie Prebis) have agreed to serve again next year and we are grateful for all they have done in the past year to give Bookers a variety of selections. They ask to please let them know if you’ve come across a book that you think should be a consideration…they are always open to your ideas!

As an added note for all fans of “exotic love stories” E.L. James of 50 Shades fame will be releasing The Mister on April 16. It’s described as a “modern fairy tale.” Wonder if it will include some type of magical powers or maybe a fairy or two….

RED:              CHALLENGING
March 5:        Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles – Note change of date
Set in East Texas during the depression, a story of hardship, sacrifice, and strength.
                        Discussion Leader: Ann Ireland
                        Home of Jean Alexander
April 9:          Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, Sarah Bird
A forgotten part of history detailing the hidden story of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the only woman to ever serve with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers.
Discussion Leader: TBD
                        Home of Aulsine DeLoach
May 14:          Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
Set in the 1950’s in very rural North Carolina revolving around a young woman named Kya Clark – celebrating strength through tragedy and the resourcefulness of a child left to fend for herself in the swamp.
Discussion Leader: Jean Alexander
                        Evening Wine & Cheese Meeting at the home of Melanie Prebis    
Summer Read: The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett

“Stories choose the right readers at the right time.”
Happy Reading,

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