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The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore

The Greatcoat - Helen Dunmore

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.

 
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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.