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Friday, December 11, 2009

Photographing Fairies - Steve Szilagyi

I read Steve Szilagyi's novel Photographing Fairies back in May and thought it was about time I wrote about it. I found the book at a library book sale. I think it has a pretty cool cover. Wish I could say the same for the contents of the book. Sigh.

Here's the plot:

Charles Castle is an American photographer living and working in London. He's kind of a slacker. His assistant does most of the work while Castle kind of lets things slide. One day, a Constable from a small town come to see him and shows Castle a photo of what he believes to be fairies. The Constable says that there's a couple of girls in the town who can see the fairies and can take photos of them. Obviously Castle thinks the Constable is a bit nuts but the photograph is compelling. Somehow (I don't quite remember how or why) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who is quite a spiritualist himself) believes the photo is authentic. Seeing an opportunity to make money and make a name for himself, Castle heads off to the small town to take photos of the fairies.

Interesting, right? What I like it that the story this novel is based on, the Cottingley fairies. Back in 1917, a couple of girls said they had photographic proof that fairies exist. Here's a few of the photos:

Many people, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, believed that these photos were of real fairies. It wasn't until the 1980s that the ladies came forward and said it was a hoax.

So if this book had strictly been a novel regarding the whole thing, I probably would have liked it. Instead, the book starts out with Castle in prison for murder. It starts that way! So he's looking back on the events that landed him in prison. The entire time I'm trying to figure out how a simple and touching story of a man trying to photograph fairies turns into a murder mystery. Who did he kill? Why? On top of that, I really didn't care for Castle at all. The ending was muddled, crammed, and I plain just didn't like it.

Anyway, there's my review.

Here's an alternate cover:
On a different note, there IS a movie based on this book that I wanted to see staring Toby Stephens as Castle. It's appealing because I really enjoy Toby Stephens as Gatsby, Mr Rochester, and Duke Orsino among others.

Here's the movie poster (a bit too trippy for me):

And just because, Toby Stephens. Check out his actors spotlight over at Lights, Camera...History!
**Has anyone else read this book or seen the movie? Thoughts?


  1. I thought the story was familiar and then you mentioned it was based on a true story. I have seen a documentary on the Cottingley fairies and found it really interesting. I would love to read this one.

  2. It's a shame the book turned out to be mediocre.

  3. How funny, I just read a book that has Doyle as a character and the author briefly mentions the fairy thing. They look pretty fake to me, but maybe that's because I just know they're fake? The cover of the book (the top one is the one I prefer) is gorgeous, so I'm sad the story doesn't hold up to it.

  4. I haven't read the book (just a quick synopsis) but have watched the movie. The character of Charles is quite different in the movie. He is married, and life has no meaning for him when his wife tragically dies, until he is shown the photo of the fairies. Don't want to give too much away incase you want to watch the movie. If you like Toby Stephens, then you will definitely enjoy the movie.

  5. That's a little crazy that Sir Conan Doyle thought they were real. Weirdness! I recognize the fairies from various artwork from doing deoupage crafts with fairies, so it was obvious to me. But unsuspecting and trusting people from long ago were a bit less aware I suppose.
    It's about time the ladies came forward.. Strange stuff indeed and don't they feel like fools?! Granted they were children seemingly from the photos at the time.

  6. What a shame the writer couldn't deliver with such an intriguing story.

  7. Aww, how disappointing! I always liked that little hoax, too. :)

  8. I also have this book. I liked it a little more than you did, but I read it so long ago, I may need to re-read. I saw the movie not too long ago and really enjoyed it.Fascinating story!


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