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The Greatcoat Hardcover – 2 Feb 2012

3.5 out of 5 stars 206 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Hammer (2 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099564939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099564935
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 382,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"the best kind of ghostly tale - one that has you pondering its implications - and checking the back of dark cupboards - long after the final page" (i, Independent)

"You won't find plastic fangs or Dulux blood in Helen Dunmore's perfect little ghost story ... Dunmore conveys a shivery menace and concealed tragedy; this is the most elegant literary flesh-creeper since Susan Hill's The Woman in Black." (The Times)

"An atmospheric and accomplished ghost story." (Woman & Home)

"This is a haunting and exquisitely crafted tale where the line between the real and the imaginary becomes blurred." (Glamour)

"The Greatcoat is a well-written ghost story that observes the traditions of the genre without subsiding into pastiche ... Dunmore uses motifs and themes as a kind of Greek chorus ... these are subtly deployed, and enhance the atmosphere in this disturbing, thoughtful novel." (The Literary Review)

Book Description

A chilling and atmospheric ghost story by the Orange-prize-winning Helen Dunmore.

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Format: Hardcover
Set in 1952 in Yorkshire, a young couple move into a rented flat. Philip is the new, young doctor while his new wife Isabel struggles with the isolated life with no friends or family and Philip's frequent absence due to the demands of his job. Things take a turn to the spooky when, waking from under the warmth of the old greatcoat Isabel finds in the flat, she hears a tapping at the window and finds there an RAF pilot, Alec, who appears to know Isabel intimately.

Ghost stories are not what you might expect from Helen Dunmore and this novella has her characteristic intelligence and strong writing. The central plot structure, of which I can of course not reveal, is very clever and the ending is suitably satisfying. However, the reader is left confused for much of the short book about time-frames (without giving too much away, we switch between 1952 and World War 2) and the brevity of the book doesn't allow for much beyond the basic characterization facts of the protagonists.

Of course some of the reader's confusion is justified in the sense that Isabel herself is equally confused, although her fascination with Alec overrides any great questioning on her part. It is of course ridiculous to expect a ghost story to fit with reality, but there are certain areas where Isabel appears rather too accepting of strange events.

Dunmore effectively captures the haunting feeling of the story but my sense was that we see rather too much of the workings of the story rather than getting a sense that the story develops organically. I could always see the author's hand at work in driving the story forward.
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By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Feb. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Helen Dunmore has long been one of my favourite novellists, so I was intrigued to read this new ghost story from her. A novella in length, it is a moving and carefully crafted story.

Isabel is the new, young wife of Philip Carey. Only married for two months, Philip has a new job as a doctor at Kirby Minster, a country town. Their first home together is a ground floor flat with a creepy landlady. It is 1952 and England is still in the grip of rationing and memories of the war. Isabel's own parents died in Singapore and she is feeling isolated and a failure. What woman cannot relate to the feeling that other women are judging and looking down at her attempts to be the adult wife she almost feels she is pretending to be? As her steak and kidney pudding goes wrong and the butcher gives her the fatty cuts of meat, Isabel and Philip grow distant.

Then Isabel discovers an RAF greatcoat in a cupboard, when she is cold one night, and is woken by a man tapping at the window. The man knows her name and she knows his. As Isabel loses touch with her husband, she wonders whose memories she is having and why she is driven to walk to the deserted airfield outside the town. This is not a scary book, but it is very atmospheric and sad, with good characters and sense of place and time. Helen Dunmore is really one of the greatest authors we have and she has pulled off this new direction with ease.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a beautifully produced book. The cold blue cover is just entrancing, with the Second World War pilot standing outside the frosty window peering in imploringly, his hand flat against the pane.

I always deeply enjoy Helen Dunmore so this was set to be my treat.

So it was, quickly catching me up in the realistic details of an abandoned temporary airbase after the hostilities were over. Reading about the fifties is always intriguing; the emergence of hope again after the austerity and dreadful experiences of war.

The mysterious landlady pacing the floor above the newly wed young couple's rooms; the pressing weight of the greatcoat on the bed, the double life of fragile Isabel, left alone for such long periods while her doctor husband dashes off to succour the sick.

What emerges from the plot is illuminating and believable, the curtain between life and death being lifted and parted, dramatic events leaving their scar, the cruel vengeance of a damaged lover perhaps refusing rest to a tortured soul.

All the twists for a tremendous tale, we are let down perhaps only by its brevity and lightness. A clever, deep piece of writing, which must be appreciated for what it is, a short book, novella, an exquisite pleasure.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore is published by Hammer, of Hammer Horror fame, and has been widely discussed in the press as the author's first horror story. But it's really not what I'd call horror. It's eerie, yes, and has a slightly unsettling, dreamlike quality to it, but if anything, what it most closely resembles is those quietly magical time-slip novels of my childhood: Charlotte Sometimes, perhaps, or Tom's Midnight Garden.

Isabel, newly married to a young GP in 1952, is struggling to find real purpose in her life as a housewife in a Yorkshire market town, where she has few friends and few outlets for her interests. Shivering one night in the freezing ground-floor flat she and her husband are renting from their dour, bitter landlady, Isabel finds an old RAF greatcoat, left over from the war, tucked away on top of a wardrobe, and huddles beneath it to keep warm. And it's around then that a mysterious young airman begins to knock at her window.

The Greatcoat is beautifully written throughout in perceptive, perfect prose, and almost every character is vividly well-constructed (with the exception, perhaps, of Isabel's husband Philip, although given the plot, this may well be deliberate). I found it incredibly easy to sympathise with Isabel, brought up by an aunt and now trying to master the art of making a steak and kidney pudding and haggling over the best fish at the market when she could have been studying for a degree, and any adult who's ever had that nagging feeling that they still aren't quite a proper grown-up yet will understand how she feels.
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