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The Greatcoat

3.08  ·  Rating Details ·  2,175 Ratings  ·  375 Reviews
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 aroun
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published February 2nd 2012 by Hammer
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Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
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
Dec 28, 2015 Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: ghost-stories
Another alleged ghost story, but not quite a ghost story. It is set in 1954 in the East Riding of Yorkshire amongst the old airfields of world war two, now abandoned and beginning to crumble. Dunmore write well about Britain just after the war, with rationing still in place and in a small town. The shadows of the war are long and still strong.
It is a straightforward story. Isabel and Philip are newly married. Philip is a newly qualified doctor and they have moved into their first flat together
Feb 03, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Ivan
If we consider The Novella Club's definition that a novella has fewer than 200 pages, then The Greatcoat should certainly be viewed as one. And seen as novella rather than novel, it might be received better by readers for its slender but powerful story. Like James' great novella, Turn of the Screw, The Greatcoat is a ghost story, but it's also a romance, a story of new marriage and passion found not within but elsewhere. Dunmore creates a subtly haunting dreamy atmosphere that permeates the page ...more
Feb 01, 2017 Fiona rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-books
What a haunting, chilling yet beautifully constructed ghost story. I had never heard of this before picking it up but I'm SO glad I took a chance on it (mostly I'll admit because of the cover)
I found this to be elegant and extremely atmospheric, I can't stop thinking about it now it's over.
Sam Quixote
Feb 22, 2012 Sam Quixote rated it it was ok

Set in post-war North England, a newly married couple settle into their first flat which is a cold and cramped place below their landlady whose footsteps resound above them as she paces constantly. The main character, Isabel, one night finds a greatcoat as worn by RAF officers in WW2 and, in a desperate bid to keep warm, she puts it on and soon falls asleep. But shortly after she begins wearing it there is a tapping on her window and a mysterious figure appears in the night. She becomes
Jan 29, 2012 Kelly rated it really liked it
This is the first book I have read by this author and I really enjoyed it.
A very atmospheric book with great descriptive writing that allowed me to imagine the scene the author was setting and because I live in the County the book was set in imagine I did!.
Although it is meant to be a ghost story it isn't in the slightest scary but then they don't have to be do they?. Dunmore writes so simplistic so it was easy to keep wanting to pick this book up as I didn't have to think too much or get bogged
As you all know, I love a ghost story, and The Greatcoat started off as a very good example of the genre - perfect for those times when you want a book you can instantly get stuck into and devour in one sitting. It centres on Isabel, a young woman who has recently married and moved to an unfamiliar Yorkshire town with her husband Philip, a doctor. Struggling with the boredom and loneliness of her new role as a housewife, Isabel is repeatedly drawn to an abandoned airfield just outside the town. ...more
Sep 29, 2012 Sara rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: NO ONE
Recommended to Sara by: I saw it in a bookshop and picked it up on impulse. A bad impulse.
If you are wondering, I didn't read this book quickly because it was good or gripping or had me racing to the end because of anticipation and sheer horror. No, I finished it quickly because the writing was so simplistic I slipped through it in a rush and reached the end thinking.


It didn't feel like the ending of a book, it felt like the ending of a chapter. This beautiful quote-

"The most elegant flesh-creeper since The Woman in Black"

from the Times really misled me. So d
Carolyn  Storer
Nov 26, 2011 Carolyn Storer rated it it was ok
2.5 Stars

I was really looking forward to reading "The Greatcoat". I was hoping it would be an atmospheric, romantic ghost story, and although very different, written with the same richness and depth as 'The woman in Black' by Susan Hill (my favourite ghost story of all time). Unfortunately, it didn't really deliver.

"The Greatcoat" is a ghost story set in Yorkshire during the Second World War and the 1950s. It's a strange little novella in that to me it didn't have much of an atmosphere at all, w
Oct 06, 2015 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Right I will start by saying that there are some great reviews of this book which go in to greater detail on the book. This as usually is more my thoughts and musing after completing reading the book.

I will admit that I have heard a lot about this book both from the fact it was from Helen Dunmore an established and renowned author to the fact it was published under the HAMMER name - yes the relaunched brand which has also re-spawned the film line of the same name. This is a book from a larger an
Feb 02, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
New direction from Helen Dunmore with a ghost story. It is 1952 and Isabel and Philip Carey move into their new home together - a ground floor flat with a creepy landlady. As Isabel struggles with becoming a wife, and Philip is busy with his job as a doctor, they begin to lose touch. When Isabel discovers an old RAF greatcoat in a cupboard, she begins to have memories - but are they hers? Then someone comes tapping on the window... Not a scary story, but moving and atmospheric.
Diane S ☔
May 22, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
Chose this one for my ghost story for October and was not disappointed. Have a rather love, hate relationship with Dunmore, some of her novels are brilliant and others not so much. This one is a solid ghost story, set in Yorkshire, about 6 years after the end of the war. Not everyone seems to know the war has ended though and while this is was not a terrifying read, it was chilling enough for me. Some people just cannot seem to move on.
Grace Harwood
Jan 15, 2013 Grace Harwood rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book and felt that the word used by The Times on the quote featured on the front cover of this edition; "elegant" was exactly the right word to employ in describing it. This is an elegant story, deftly constructed with - as you would expect from an author of Dunmore's calibre - good use of language, excellently realised characters and a strong plot which leads you forward and into the story. It is NOT - as The Times also claim - a "flesh-creeper" and nor is it reall ...more
Oct 17, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it
There is something so elemental about a ghost story, something that speaks to one’s deepest fears and desires, that a reader can’t help being drawn in. The Greatcoat, by Helen Dunmore, is exactly that kind of a ghost story. I couldn’t put it down from the moment I read the first page (okay, I had one night of sleep in between) and finished it in two days. This is a simple, well-written story about a ghost, manifested through a Royal Air Force standard issue coat, who links himself to the life of ...more
Stephanie Jane
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. I think it really should have been published as a novella rather than a 239 page novel because there are such wide margins that I found myself turning pages ridiculously fast!

The Greatcoat is set in a small East Riding community in 1954. Reminders of the War are everywhere yet the people have frequently chosen to look ahead rather than back. It is no
Ian Kirkpatrick
Apr 04, 2012 Ian Kirkpatrick rated it really liked it
Dunmore has a fascinating style. She writes quite obliquely and doesn’t over-explain. The reader has to let the story wash over them, confident that the meaning will evolve. It’s an act of faith.

Set in the fifties this is a story of a young woman’s possession by a World War Two airman, although Dunmore doesn’t let her tale take obvious routes or arrive at an expected outcome. Although this is her first published ghost story she has an innate understanding of what the story needs in order to work
Isabel and her husband move to the East Riding where she's left alone while he's off doctoring. One day she finds an old RAF greatcoat in a cupboard and when she uses it to keep warm, an airman appears in her life. Is he real, a ghost or a time-traveller? This was quite gentle even if it was about a haunting. Very readable and easy to whizz through.
Yvonne Barlow
Jan 09, 2013 Yvonne Barlow rated it did not like it
I love Helen Dunsmore's novels, but this did not pull together. A young 1950s housewife, by accounts easily intimidated in her new town, hears a rapping on her window, sees a strange man and let's him in - no motive! This is a ghost story, and the characters felt dead.
Nov 17, 2012 Helen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm glad I didn't pay full price for this book. It was short, had huge holes in the plot and was generally a little weak. Not Helen Dunmore's best.
Jan 30, 2012 Marleen rated it really liked it
The year is 1954 and although the war has been over for 9 years Britain is still a bleak place with the remnants of abandoned military bases dotted in the landscape, rationing determining what people can get their hands on and daily comforts being few and far between.
Isabel Carey has recently married Philip who is a GP and together they’ve moved to a Yorkshire town where he starts his medical practice. While Philip is happy with his new career and surroundings, Isabel can’t seem to settle. She f
Nick Phillips
Nov 04, 2012 Nick Phillips rated it it was amazing
I write this review as an unashamed Helen Dunmore fan, though having said that I do not give five stars lightly and have not given five stars to all of her novels but I do feel that here it is justified.

The Greatcoat is marketed as a horror story and even carries the Hammer logo on the spine, a logo that still carries a lot of memories of fantastic though low budget horror films for those of my generation. It is a ghost story in the tradition of classics by MR James, Henry James, Charles Dicken
Jun 28, 2013 Christie rated it liked it
I am a Helen Dunmore fan, no doubt about it. Although her novels aren’t especially propulsive, I still find her work compulsively readable. She is particularly gifted when it comes to creating believable and sympathetic characters and her novels are moody and atmospheric. Her latest novel, The Greatcoat, caught my eye in the horror section – of all places.

Isabel Carey is a young bride who has moved to Yorkshire with her husband, Philip, a doctor. They’ve been married just two months and this mov
Carole Tyrrell
Aug 18, 2012 Carole Tyrrell rated it it was ok
This is published under the new Hammer imprint and is Helen Dunmore’s first foray into ghost stories.
To me it read more like a romantic fantasy with time travel involved and a very slight brush with the supernatural. Helen Dunmore is a fine writer and I enjoyed her book set in Leningrad during the time of the siege but ‘The Greatcoat’ felt slight. Its length works against it as it is more like a novella.
Set in 1952 in a small Yorkshire town, Dunmore deftly evokes that grey period after the 2nd W
Karen Perkins
Mar 09, 2013 Karen Perkins rated it really liked it
Alec and Jimmy prepare for their 27 flying op over WWII Berlin. Alec hands Jimmy a ten-bob note – his winnings from a bet involving three WAAF and a bicycle. He puts it in his locker with a very special letter he has written to his wife and child, because he thinks they'll come back. Alec puts on his lucky gloves, climbs into his aircraft and takes off.

Fast forward to 1952, and Isabel – newly wed to Philip, a hard-working doctor – is trying to make a new home in an old, dreary flat with shared
Oct 04, 2013 Christine rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
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 th ...more
Kate Dunn
May 23, 2012 Kate Dunn rated it it was ok
I LOVE Helen Dunmore, she has been a profound influence on my writing life and is one of my top literary heroines - I think I have read just about everything she has written, with A Spell of Winter being an unassailable favourite.
I found The Greatcoat a little disappointing. the central device, where the heroine puts on a great coat she has found in the back of a wardrobe and is transported into the arms of a soldier from the Second World War, is brilliantly conceived and cleverly executed, so t
Mar 12, 2012 Chelsea rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror, historical, adult
I am hovering somewhere between five or four stars but have decided to make it five purely because of the ending. I didn't know what to expect when I started to read this but I was pleasantly surprised. This story is set in the 1950s and Isabel and her husband Philip have just moved into a small flat. They are newly weds and Isabel is finding it hard to adjust to the realities of married life. On a cold night she finds a greatcoat the belonged to a RAF pilot. She spreads it on the bed and falls ...more
Aug 28, 2013 Kate rated it did not like it
Although I am not usually a reader of Helen Dunmore, I chose this book as it was described as a ghost story which would be bound to make your flesh creep. Unfortunately, this just did not live up to expectation.

Rather than a ghost story, I felt that this slim novel read as a romance. For a good long while during this book, the main character Isabel does not realise that the young man visiting her house is in fact dead. And so she begins an unusual 'affair'.
I think my main gripe with the plot is
Apr 21, 2013 Sho rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, drama
I got this on the strength of Marleen's excellent review. I bought it ages ago but I'm a bit of a scaredy cat so I was worried about reading it. There is a comment from The Times review on the front which doesn't help, either: "The most elegant flesh-creeper since The Woman in Black". Eek. That was a film I couldn't watch (on account of being a scaredy cat) but my family (who all love a good scary film) said it was the scariest thing they have ever seen.

So I finally picked it up yesterday and de
Sep 17, 2015 Snoakes rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this slight little ghost story. It's spooky rather than scary - if you're after something with big shocks you are in the wrong place.

It's the story of Isabel, living a restricted existence as the new wife of a young doctor. Living in a gloomy flat, listening to the landlady pacing upstairs, with nothing to occupy her but shopping and cooking badly, she's wide open when the supernatural comes knocking. Helen Dunmore's low key writing style is perfect for this kind of tale, allowi
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I was born in December 1952, in Yorkshire, the second of four children. My father was the eldest of twelve, and this extended family has no doubt had a strong influence on my life, as have my own children. In a large family you hear a great many stories. You also come to understand very early that stories hold quite different meanings for different listeners, and can be recast from many viewpoints ...more
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