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The Greatcoat

3.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,791 ratings  ·  464 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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Average rating 3.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,791 ratings  ·  464 reviews

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Dec 28, 2015 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
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
Fiona MacDonald
Feb 01, 2017 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 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
Feb 03, 2013 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
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Abandoned wartime airfields, in quiet and lonely rural locations, retain a haunting sense of the past. Today the roar of bombers has been replaced by birdsong, and the concrete runways by harvest fields of waving corn, but many of the perimeter roads and buildings still exist today, in some shape or form. These sites don’t just provide moments of quiet reflection for countryside wayfarers but opportunities for writers to indulge their imaginations in wartime nostalgia, imagining exciting young l ...more
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: NO ONE
Recommended to Cat 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
Kelly Furniss
Jan 29, 2012 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
Oct 06, 2015 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
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
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed-2017
The Greatcoat is more a story of lost love. Yearning for the past than it is a traditional scary ghost story. People from the past coming to the present stuck in a loop that will forever hold them. 
The story did not scare me as such but, Isabel's isolation as the newcomer in town weighed heavily on me. Her husband Philip fell comfortably into his role as the new doctor. However, Isobel found life a lot harder having to endure stares and whispers from nosy women. I also felt the suffocation of r
Feb 02, 2012 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 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.
Yvonne Barlow
Jan 09, 2013 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.
Carolyn  Storer
Nov 26, 2011 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
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
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
Jun 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Slighter compared to the other Dunmores I've read, but extremely atmospheric. It had a strong emotional pull, even if the ghost story didn't quite make sense to me (do they ever?). She really has a way with creating memorable characters, and the postwar atmosphere of deprivation is rendered beautifully.
Oct 17, 2012 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
Debbie Robson
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
For me The Greatcoat grabbed me from the dust jacket. It had three very interesting elements. It was a ghost story (not a cheap horror sort of ghost story, I could tell), the ghost was from WWII and the novel itself was set in that interesting decade the 1950s. Straightaway in the Prologue the reader is hooked. Three short sentences delineate the ghost’s world and how can you put a book down after that?
In Chapter one it’s 1952 in England and I particularly love how deftly, again, Dunmore sets th
Nov 17, 2012 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.
t a n y a
Creepy ghost story indeed! My first read by Dunmore and I already am a fan of her writing style. It moves fast and as for this story, it was just the right amount of info, detail, and length for what she wanted to convey to the reader. I was drawn to Isabel's character from the beginning and liked how she was depicted - she was believable and honest in the newness of being a Drs wife. Her husband, Phillip, seems absent in many ways thus the arrival of the greatcoat and its stranger were quite a ...more
Owen Townend
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has been ages since I last read a truly atmospheric ghost story as this.

Dunmore manages to evoke a dual setting with the 50's as dull contemporary times and the 40's as the haunting yet not-at-all distant past. I especially enjoyed the way that Alec seems to keep coming in from the cold even if Isabel is outside in the warm and how she comes to slip into their uncanny relationship without showing any apparent realisation or discomfort.

I must express a curiosity to feel the weight of a greatco
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Ghost stories are not everyone's cup of tea, I know, but this is pretty awesome. Not that those who dislike ghost stories will find this any different; on the contrary, this is pretty much in the same vein as Henry James and his ilk. For me, that's the attraction. This is classic ghost story. People dislike them, I think, because of the apparent lack of action. The thing is, it's all about mood and atmosphere. You need a vivid imagination to read them as well as write them. This is beautifully w ...more
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: may-2018
Helen Dunmore, a prolific author, died in June 2017; The Greatcoat was published in 2012. Reviews from critics have been largely positive - for instance, The Times calls the novel 'the most elegant flesh-creeper since The Woman in Black', and the Independent on Sunday 'a perfect ghost story' - but those from readers have been rather mixed. Regardless, one has to admire Dunmore for writing about such a wealth of different time periods and characters, from Second World War Russia in The Siege, to ...more
E.H. Night
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is in my top 5 favorite books.
Oct 04, 2013 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
Ian Kirkpatrick
Apr 04, 2012 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
Marilyn Shea
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I started this book just before going to bed and the first three chapters created such a strange aura that I was afraid to set the book down with the front cover showing. As I turned out the light, I knocked the book to the floor and knew, just knew, it had landed with the picture of the airman facing up. That's the kind of book this is. Has a power of its own. I felt like it let me recall things I could not have known, and I had a sense of what my mother's life might have been like, being a you ...more
I picked it up because of the cover, anddidn't know what to expect - but certainly not a supernatural story and that's exactly why I gave it 4 stars. It's a layered story, three different narratives in one; there's the one about the newlywed couple, some years after the war, her struggle to become what is expected of a wife; then, simultaneously there's the story about what happened during the war, and both stories are intertwining through what at first seems to be the protagonist's imagination, ...more
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.
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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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