‘The Greatcoat’ by Helen Dunmore

The GreatcoatstarstarNot a huge fan of ghost stories, I was surprised to find myself reading a second one in only two months! This time for my book club. Both authors built fear using atmosphere, rain, wind, fog, and creepy characters. This one in particular used cold.

Unfortunately the whole story left me a bit cold, and although I appreciated some good writing by the author and enjoyed the set up of a young married couple struggling in a post-war Yorkshire town, the whole possession of the greatcoat did not frighten me, in fact I found it rather dreamy and elegant which is a strange reaction, knowing it was meant to be spine-tingling! It is commonly understood that ghosts appear because of unfinished business – Alec did have a reason to haunt and Isabel had a reason to be haunted. An interesting twist (which I believe is the reason the story is not so scary) is that in this one, the ghost brings warmth and comfort instead of cold and terror!

“In the winter of 1952, Isabel Carey is struggling to adjust to the realities of married life in Yorkshire. Isolated and lonely, she is also intensely cold. And her husband – a doctor – is rarely home. And then one night she discovers an old RAF greatcoat in the back of a cupboard. She puts it on her bed for warmth – and is startled by a knock at her window. Outside is a young man. A pilot. And he wants to come in…”

Although this book was published by Hammer, a horror publisher, most of Dunmore’s other books were published by Penguin and I suspect they are quite different from this one. If you are a Helen Dunmore fan, I would appreciate knowing which one of hers I should read next. I fear this may not have been the best one to start with. I did appreciate her writing, I just didn’t enjoy the story all that much. I liked how she created the idea that history can be so powerful a force in our lives that it seems to somehow possess us and make its presence known. I liked how she described the loneliness and isolation of a young wife in a small rural town and how she skillfully revealed some hairline cracks in a new marriage. But that was about it.

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