2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Ethereal and moving,
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This review is from: The Greatcoat (Hammer) (Paperback)
Newlyweds Philip and Isabel Carey are setting up their first home in cold, stark rooms in a converted house. Philip works long hours establishing himself as a GP in a close-knit Yorkshire farming community, and Isabel finds herself struggling to settle in and make friends, and to adjust to the domesticity and boredom of the life of a 1950s housewife.
Isabel finds an old RAF greatcoat hidden away in a cupboard and puts it on their bed in an effort to banish the cold which envelops her as she sleeps. One night while Philip is away on a house call, she hears a tapping at the window. Outside is a young pilot who appears to be calling her name.
Although it's published by Hammer, this is not a blood-curdling horror story, but more of a gentle study of the effects of wartime loss and grief. I was a bit confused/unconvinced by the surreal way in which the pilot (Alec) kept entering Isabel's life, but after I suspended my disbelief I became totally engrossed in the storyline. As the story progresses it becomes obvious that Isabel suffered terrible losses during the war, from which she hasn't yet recovered.
Helen Dunmore has set The Greatcoat in the year of her birth in an area she grew up in, and based it on a ghostly apparition seen by sister when they were children. I found her author's note at the end of the book really interesting, where she talks about society's need to "rebuild and to begin again" after the war, so that the dead were almost forgotten and not talked about. I thought this came across really strongly in the novel, with all the characters, apart from Isabel and the fabulously creepy 'landlady', moving on in the hope of better lives after the sacrifices of war.
This is not my first Helen Dunmore book - I have to admit I've struggled with her in the past but this poignant novella has inspired me to give her another go, and I think I'll make a start with The Siege.