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Wednesday, 19 February 2014


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Harriet Devine

A great review of what sounds like a fascinating and amazingly well-researched book. Thanks.


Thank you Harriet! I do recommend it, if you're at all interested in the subject, or in ways in which difference can be perceived and spoken about.


This sounds absolutely fascinating and really makes me wish I was still lecturing. I have had so many students in the past who could have made use of a book like this. My own first experience was through the Flower Fairies, which I loved and then I went to live near Cottingley, where the early twentieth century hoax was perpetrated. except no one seemed to believe it was a hoax so you were always on the lookout just in case.

Jenny @ Reading the End

I own this! Hooray, I must read it! I like your cover much better than mine -- I've got the twee flower fairies cover, and your darker, scarier one is plainly better. I bought it on a London trip in, oh gosh, 2009, and somehow still haven't gotten to it!


Alex, I think you would enjoy it anyway. She does write about the Cottingley fairies, and also about the films of the story in a very interesting way.

Jenny - read it at once! I'd love to know your opinion of it. You write brilliant reviews of non-fiction, you're much better at analysing it than I am. I prefer the Dadd cover too, but I have to say I have a sneaking fondness for the twee, I expect it's because I too was brought up on Flower Fairies and so tweeness has crept into my blood somehow (not that I am suggesting the same happened to Alex, because she strikes me as very un-twee).


How fascinating! I remember going through a stage when I was a kid and reading all sorts of books, some for my age, some for adults, and being very confused about fairies. Tinker Bell and the Fairy Godmother of Cinderella were good so fairies were good. But then there were fairies that stole babies and they were dark and dangerous. It wasn't until I was much older that I was able to work out that what constituted a fairy had changed over time. As an adult I think I much prefer the darker version of fairies, they are more interesting. Great book it sounds like and great review!


I prefer the darker fairies too, Stefanie!

I was thinking about your comment, and I began to wonder whether, as the dark fairy was replaced by the sweet, pretty one, the darkness was somehow transferred onto other beings, like vampires. It seemed to me that the category of 'fairy' was quite unstable from the beginning, some fairies being rather like ghosts, some like demons or witches, and that it was in the nineteenth century, as fairies dwindled, that interest in other monsters grew, and that these replaced some at least of the dark fairies' functions.

But this is just a wild surmise on a Friday morning with coffee in hand, I've no idea if it's likely or not. Thanks for your thought-provoking comment!


What a fascinating review! This is the kind of book I love to read and yet so often put aside for an easier, quicker fix. So I am extremely happy to read your excellent summary and feel much wiser than I was before I arrived here! Isn't it funny how so many powerfully ambiguous concepts, like fairies and muses, have been Disneyfied from the Victorian age onward. I do wonder why that is.

Desperate Reader

Have you read Alice Thomas Ellis' 'Fairy Tale'? She has some nasty fairies. I guess Vampires fulfil something of the same role that bad fairies would once have had but they seem quite tame in comparison.


Hello litlove and Hayley, I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply to you.

litlove, Diane Purkiss has a theory about the decline of fairies, involving the Enlightenment, changing ideas about childhood and the First World War, broadly speaking, and it's very plausible. I don't know about muses and I think that's a curious and interesting point. Do we find our ambiguities in other places, or do we smooth them out more? I have no idea at all.

I have read 'Fairy Tale', Hayley - could you have recommended it on Desperate Reader? I'm sure I bought it after reading someone's review of it.

Diane Purkiss makes a distinction between Scottish and English fairies of the Renaissance: the Scots approached fairies because they might give you knowledge, but the English were interested in fairies because they might give you... gold. I thought this was funny...


This sounds fascinating- but like Alex I was a fan of the flower fairies and I'm a bit afraid I would be one of the criticized. Still definitely sounds worth reading!


Catie, my fondness for the Flower Fairies and my self-esteem remained intact at the end of the book! Don't let it put you off, it is such an interesting read.

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