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The Greatcoat: A Ghost Story by Helen…

The Greatcoat: A Ghost Story (edition 2012)

by Helen Dunmore

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2392148,266 (3.17)44
Title:The Greatcoat: A Ghost Story
Authors:Helen Dunmore
Info:Atlantic Monthly Press (2012), Edition: Uncorrected Proof Paperback, Hardcover, 208 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:WWII, ghost story

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The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore



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World War 2 ghost story, set in 1952
By sally tarbox on 18 June 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
Maybe 3.5* for this very readable ghost story. It's 1952, winter, and newly-wed Isabel Carey is living in unlovely digs with her preoccupied GP husband and a landlady she dislikes. When she unearths an old greatcoat stashed in a cupboard, she uses it as an additional blanket in bed. And suddenly, and mysteriously, she starts getting visits from a WW2 airman...

"There was a man outside the window. She saw the pallor of his face first, as it seemed to bob against the glass, too high up to belong to a man who had his feet on the ground...The level of the ground there was higher than the floor inside. That was why he seemed to float in mid-air. A man in a greatcoat..."

The 'wrinkle in time' means that the local airbase, a ruin in 1952, is once again a hub of activity. Isabel seems to be morphing into the woman whom Alec the airman was seeing back in the War. It's a slightly confusing plotline, but one that Helen Dunmore manages to handle.
Read in one sitting; it's a short novel so I didn't get particularly wrapped up in the characters, but the plotline keeps you reading. ( )
  starbox | Jun 17, 2017 |
To be honest, the cover probably is the thing that got me to buy the book. Sure, the blurb about a time slip, an RAF ghost, and a mystery did help, but I can't help it, I absolutely love that cover. So, it is with a bit of a heavy heart that I write this review. It's not like the book is bad, it's just not so fantastic that I hoped it to be.

I did like the story, I just did not love it. I found the premise of the story intriguing and it started off good. But, looking back to reading the book do I have to admit that I did not really fall for the story. I wonder if it had been better if it had been more to the story. It's not a thick book, it just takes a couple of hours to read the book. So, everything moved forward rather quickly, getting to know Isabel and the rest of the characters, meeting the ghost, learning the truth and then the end. And, sure, it's a tragic truth, but I never really got to know Alec, and I thought that was a miss. It would have been wonderful to have learned more about him through flashbacks. Rather than just the first chapter and then through ghostly recollections. I wanted to be moved by the book, but that never happened.

It's a so-so book. I liked it, but if feels like it had potential that never was achieved.

Read this review and others on A Bookaholic Swede ( )
  MaraBlaise | Apr 14, 2017 |
It’s just after WWII; rations are still in place, food and fuel shortages are still the norm, decent housing is hard to come by, blackout curtains still hang in some windows, the bombings are still a fresh memory and some don’t realize it’s all over. Newlyweds Isabel and Philip Carey have moved in to a small rental flat in Yorkshire, where Philip is beginning his medical practice. More often than not Isabel finds herself alone in the tiny, cold flat. Looking for more blankets that she is sure the stingy landlady has hidden away, Isabel discovers a “Greatcoat” tucked into the back of a cupboard. Although it is not a blanket Isabel decides the heavy wool coat will suit just fine to keep her warm through the night. Soon enough Isabel becomes aware that the coat brings with it more than warmth and learns that sometimes people are not exactly as they appear.

This was a short book, a simple story and, easily read. The scene Ms. Dunmore sets is contained; a small flat in a small village and, down the road, a deserted airfield. As far as the characters go, there are four main ones and everyone else is pretty much a walk-on. The limited cast and venue of the book aid in building the mystery and the suspense because it is clear to the reader that nothing goes unnoticed (almost). The mystery and suspense carry through to a very satisfying ending that I really didn’t see coming until, well … until the very end.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
I bought this book on the strength of some of Helen Dunmore's other historical fiction. [The Siege], shortlisted for the Orange Prize, was a compelling story set during the siege of Leningrad. It's sequel, [The Betrayal], was also quite good and covered the fictitious Doctor's Plot, the last purge before Stalin's death.

[The Greatcoat] is also historical fiction set in World War II, but it is much shorter than the other two, and it is a ghost story of sorts. Normally I don't read paranormal fiction, but the setting and the strength of the author's other works convinced me to try it. Although I enjoyed the bits about the pilots flying sorties from England, I didn't care much for the main plot. A young newlywed and her doctor husband move into a shabby apartment, where the woman discovers a WWII greatcoat and uses it to stay warm. The owner of the coat then beings to make his appearance. A short read, it made for a diverting hour or two, but the book is not one that will stay with me long. ( )
  labfs39 | Mar 21, 2015 |
This is the first novel by Helen Dunmore that I've read and I gather she's capable of better than this, if the other reviews are anything to go by. I thought The Greatcoat was quite atmospheric with a real sense of time and place, but found the characters slightly irritating and I drifted out of the book around halfway through, reaching the end with a sense of relief. An adequate time-passer, probably quite forgettable. ( )
  cappybear | Nov 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
The Greatcoat is more reminiscent of classic children's time-travel fiction, Tom's Midnight Garden or Charlotte Sometimes or Alison Uttley's Traveller in Time, than of Poe or MR James. Those books give an innocent generation ways of knowing historical trauma – perhaps the only preparation for the injustices of the present and the future – often using the possessions or dwellings of the dead as the key to time-travel, which is in itself a form of haunting. So too does The Greatcoat. We all know that young men die in war, and that they are brave and skilled and also frightened, and that women's lives are distorted by these deaths. Dunmore's gift, familiar from The Siege and The Betrayal, is to use a finely drawn domestic setting to show the great events of European history on a human scale. She doesn't need "horror" to spook her readers; our past is bad enough.
But where this novel stands out is in its wonderful sketches of the utter creepiness of life in the Careys' dark little flat....Fans of Dunmore's Russian novels may struggle with this new direction. The Siege and The Betrayal were brilliant because they fleshed out the real, human details of huge, historical events. This novel adds an extra layer of unreality to fiction, and calls for a reader who is really willing to suspend disbelief. In that sense, it is a perfect ghost story, that will reward Hammer horror readers as well as open-minded Dunmore fans. This ghostly, literary war story could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
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Book description
In the winter of 1952, Isabel Carey moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire with her husband Philip, a GP. With Philip spending long hours on call, Isabel finds herself isolated and lonely as she strives to adjust to the realities of married life.

Woken by intense cold one night , she discovers an old RAF greatcoat hidden in the back of a cupboard. Sleeping under it for warmth, she starts to dream. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled by a knock at her window.

Outside is a young RAF pilot, waiting to come in.

His name is Alec, and his powerful presence both disturbs and excites her. Her initial alarm soon fades and they begin an intense affair. But nothing has prepared her for the truth about Alec's life, nor the impact it will have on hers...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099564939, Hardcover)

A terrifyingly atmospheric ghost story by the Orange-prize-winning Helen Dunmore.
In the summer of 1954, newly wed Isabel Carey arrives in a Yorkshire town with her husband Philip. As a GP he spends much of his time working, while Isabel tries hard to adjust to the realities of married life. Life is not easy: she feels out-of-place and constantly judged by the people around her, so she spends much of her time alone.
One cold winter night, Isabel finds an old RAF greatcoat in the back of a cupboard that she uses to help keep warm. Once wrapped in the coat she is beset by dreams. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled to hear a knock at her window, and to meet for the first time the intense gaze of a young Air Force pilot, handsome, blond and blue-eyed, staring in at her from outside.
His name is Alec, and his powerfully haunting presence both disturbs and excites Isabel. Her initial alarm soon fades, and they begin a delicious affair. But nothing could have prepared her for the truth about Alec's life, nor the impact it will have on her own marriage.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In the summer of 1954, young wife, Isabel Carey, arrives in a Yorkshire town with her husband Philip. As a GP he spends much of his time working, while Isabel tries hard to adjust to the realities of married life. It isn't easy.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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