The Story Collector: Away with the fairies

The Story Collector by Evie Gaughan is a historical fantasy novel with a romantic element depicting beautiful stories in beautiful settings. I enjoyed parts of this novel, although I found it to be rather slow-burning which nearly made me put the book down at points. I am glad that I stuck with it, though as it is rather unique.

The story
The Story Collector by Evie Gaughan is told from the third person perspective of Sarah, a woman who has left her husband and accidentally ended up in Ireland for Christmas instead of with her sister. The second narrative perspective is a first person account from the diary of Anna in 1911, who is assisting a visiting American with his research about fairies and belief. As Sarah reads Anna’s account of their search for fairy stories, she falls in love with Cnoc na Si and Ireland while making friends with the locals and trying not to be drawn into thoughts of her dark past.

What I liked…
I liked the general plot of The Story Collector; it is simple and recounts beautiful happenings from the 1900s and earlier. The characters have multiple dimensions and capture the heart of the reader from the beginning. I love the fact that Sarah does discover the resolution to Anna’s story, as I felt that this was important for her to make her own choices about where to go and what to do with her life next. I also thought that the way they kept the fantasy elements light and suggestible, rather than having it blatant and unrealistic was a smart choice from Gaughan, as this meant that I did not feel as though I was having fairy propaganda forced down my throat.
I liked the romantic elements, also. I got truly invested in Anna and Harold’s journey, as they had brilliant rapport and a great understanding of one another. Sarah’s own romantic journey was written in such a way that it did not become the narrative, which I much preferred. I felt that it was almost a sub-plot away from her reading Anna’s diary and wondering on what happened, which meant that it did not feel forced or fake in any way. I also really believed the ending; it was realistic and true to how I felt those characters would have chosen to act in those circumstances in the real world.

As pretty as this book is, with every story described offering a different voice, it was a slow burner. I nearly put this book away about five times before dedicating myself to finishing it; at 286 pages, I should not be wanting or needing to rush through any of it. I felt that everything written was almost too realistic in some ways; this is a story about finding out what the locals believed about fairies, so it would have been nice to have seen some further fantasy elements included in the 2011 narrative. This would have made Sarah’s story much more uplifting and I wouldn’t have wanted to skip through her parts as much. I also feel disappointed that there was no conclusion on what Sarah believed; she has spent days getting invested in these stories just to not conclude her opinions, which frustrated me.

Overall, this is a good book. I think that many people would really enjoy it as it is pretty, offers a good history of Cnoc na Si and fairy propaganda from the 1900s and has nice romantic elements. I would recommend this book to readers of historical and romantic fiction as well as women’s fiction, as the female characters are pretty ballsy and fun to read. Thank you Urbane for an advance proof copy of The Story Collector by Evie Gaughan in exchange for an honest review.

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