The Greatcoat Hardcover – 2 Feb 2012
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"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)
A chilling and atmospheric ghost story by the Orange-prize-winning Helen Dunmore.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Much as I enjoyed Helen Dunmore's lucid and imaginative writing in this book, I found some of it a bit clunky to be honest. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Manda Williams
Isabel Carey is a newly married doctors wife living in Yorkshire. It's 1952 and the war is not long over. Her husband is not at home very much and Issy becomes lonely. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Tinalouise1969
I liked the premise of this book - that the wearing of the coat would bring back a ghost - and liked the setting near the abandoned WW2 bomber airfield. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Stuart C.
I enjoyed the story as a very unchallenging read but have found ghost stories by Wilkie Collins far more eerie and unsettling. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer - JudiB
okay as stories go but thought not one of Helen Dunmore best storiesPublished 4 months ago by Carol Vaughan
My friend Marta lent me her paperback copy of The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore and I read the whole book, practically in one sitting, this afternoon. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Stephanie Jane
As always Helen Dunmore's greatest power as a writer is her narrative and intense observation. Her novels work because of their incredible sensibility, economy of emotion and... Read morePublished 6 months ago by cnc
What a book! I would have liked it to be longer though so the characters could have 'developed' more, but I loved the 'time travel' of the story and it was very well written. Read morePublished 6 months ago by dollydip