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The Red Coat: A Novel of Boston

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,683 ratings  ·  166 reviews
Think Downton Abbey, but set in the heart of Boston . . . Irish domestic worker Norah King's decision to ask her wealthy employer, Caroline Parker, for an elegant red coat the Beacon Hill matriarch has marked for donation ignites a series of events that neither woman could have fathomed. The unlikely exchange will impact their respective daughters and families for ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by Lettermullen Press
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Dolley Carlson Hello Rosemary Flynn,
Dolley Carlson here.
Would love to hear from you.
You can email me on my website - - click on the email…more
Hello Rosemary Flynn,
Dolley Carlson here.
Would love to hear from you.
You can email me on my website - - click on the email box-upper right.
Or go directly to
Best to you, dc(less)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,683 ratings  ·  166 reviews

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Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
The story of a coat that has been passed down from sister to sister in Pre/Post WWII Boston. I enjoyed the cultural references and related to many of them. However, the pictures and small articles on the side of many pages were a distraction and made me question if this was fiction or a memoire.

I do hope this author will continue the story of the King/Donnley family. And I would also love to read what happens to Cordelia Parker and her family back in Boston. Will both families meet up again?
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Keeping things honest, I have to admit I am from South Boston lived there for 32 years. I grew up in the area where the main characters lived.
outside of that, I found this book to be well written, I loved all the characters, the changes they went through and the growth of the characters would not let me put the book down.

I wanted to have someone who did not grow up in Southie read it. I wanted ti be sure my opinion wasn't totally biased. My husband grew up in New York City and
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.0 ***

I really enjoyed this novel of South Boston's Irish community in the 1940s. As a transplant to Boston, I have been trying to absorb the nuances of this culture for sixteen years and through the eyes of Norah King an immigrant from Ireland arriving and thriving in South Boston far away from her family as she creates a wonderful home and example of how to live for her children, I finally begin to understand more about the folks I have met here from all economic strata and ethnic
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a Delightful Novel!

This book reads like a Family diary! The specific details of Boston’s locations, pertinent to the moment of the story, as accompanied by the period photographs, convinced me that this was more biographical than fiction. Very nicely done!!
Jan 28, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Did not finish. This is not a “Novel of Boston” it’s a book of lists. Every damn thing anyone owned, ate, or saw is listed in mind-numbing detail.

For example: “... the Donnellys relished every square inch: a living room, three bedrooms, small eat-in kitchen with at big, old-fashioned, black iron stove,a walk-in pantry, formal dining room, large bath with a claw foot tub, pedestal sink, and pull-chain toilet, and a big back porch”. There was a list inside of this list, and this was one sentence!
Lisa Lynch
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Even though the book had a promising start I found it frustrating and too full of boring details to really keep the momentum going. I live in Boston now but did not grow up here and I can't imagine this book being enjoyable or interesting to anyone not connected to South Boston. The story was lost by too many details- everything they wore or ate was painstakingly described - and glamourized "Southie" and the Catholic Church past the point of believability. There really was no story- just two ...more
Cheryl Crotty
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a book that, although long, I did not want it to end. Such good writing about a place and time frame that I am so familiar with. It was a book that stirred up old memories, brought out some history of a section of Boston that I was not very familiar with, Southie, and it was also a beautiful story about generations of a family. I loved it.
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this novel. I grew attached to some characters and wanted more details but it was really about the journey of that fabulous red coat. I loved the details in the margins, it gave genuine historical references or clarified a point in the story. As a Catholic I related to the many of the family stories about communion, Easter and catholic school. It would be interesting to see if there are more stories of Boston.
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Loved this wonderful book by my friend Dolley Carlson, set in her beloved Boston. It is a heartfelt book that captures the love and loyalty of family, specifically between mothers & daughters and sisters and the special connection that women have throughout their lives. It tells how one beautiful red coat changed the course of their lives for generations and was a metaphor for love, sacrifice and connection.
Jul 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book. My grandparents came to America from Ireland and settled in Charlestown, MA. I could relate to what life must have been like for Dolley's characters even though they were living in South Boston.
When the characters traveled into downtown Boston it brought back a lot of memories of stores and places long gone. This novel made me put myself in my grandparents shoes, life was not easy for them. I would definitely recommend!
Heather Alice
Oct 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
This was so poorly written, I couldn't finish it. Poor author needed a SERIOUS editor. Trite, over-written with two-dimensional characters left me more hungry than three hours after eating Chinese food. Hungry for a good book, not this garbage.
Marie De Paolo
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brought back memories

The author stays true to Boston and the South Boston Irish. She has a very easy style of writing . Brought back a lot of memories from my childhood . And oh those nuns
Judith Tepe
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Now that I am a resident of South Boston, I really appreciated the historical fiction and scenes in my back yard.
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I hardly ever give 5 stars, but 4 1/2 stars wasn't available...I really liked this book.
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a great trip down memory lane for me! I really enjoyed this book about living in 'Southie,' the Irish section of Boston in the 40's and 50's. I grew up about 15 miles south of Boston later than that, but so many places, expressions, and events resonated true for me, that it often brought a smile to my face. Many of the places I had been to with my family - Filene's Basement (fighting for what you'd find), Jordan Marsh (the Christmas windows, visiting Santa, & the famous muffins!), RH ...more
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I really enjoyed this multigenerational saga of one family’s immigration to “Southie” in Boston and their joys, sorrows and growth in a rich, family oriented environment. Like many neighborhoods in the 40’s and 50’s, ethnicity, religion and tradition was the glue that helped immigrants and first generation Americans adjust and evolve. The red coat symbolizes the overlap of different backgrounds and its effect on the lives of those who possess it. The characters in this novel are real and the ...more
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This story chronicles the life of an Irish immigrant family living in South Boston, or Southie. The red coat becomes a type of talisman when it is transferred as a discarded item to an Irish scrubwoman from her wealthy, Beacon Hill employer. The author provides a very real depiction of family strife/ties, romance, class conflict, and religious prejudice in the everyday life of these two very different communities in which the two women exist. For anyone familiar with this era in the 1940s to ...more
Patricia Doyle
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I did not want this book to end. In fact, the last 100 pages or so had me hesitating to pick it back up, because I knew it meant it would end soon. This is one of those books that window-peeks inside the lives of families. As in every family, some members I liked, some I didn’t.

I so enjoyed Norah and most everyone in her family, although I could have choked her husband, John Joseph. I enjoyed her children and watching them evolve into adults. While I didn’t grow up anywhere near Boston, I could
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
First I want to thank Chris Sullivan for ordering "The Red Coat" by Dolley Carlson for the DeGroodt Library at my request. If I could have given this book more than 5 stars I would have. I liked it that much. I especially liked the added pictures of many Boston landmarks included in the story of the King Family of South Boston. It brought back many memories of places I love in Boston; being a Bostonian at heart and now a transplanted Floridian. I hope my friends and family still in New England ...more
Mary Robinson
Beautiful historical fiction set in 1950s Irish neighborhoods of Boston. Celebrates the blessings of being in that close-knit community but does not whitewash the problems that came with that during those years – alcoholism, abuse, discrimination. Examines the class tension between the working Irish (and other more recent immigrants) and the Brahmin elites of Boston. Does have an upstairs-downstairs kind of feel with wonderful, rich characters in both "locations."
Mary Frawley
Not my favorite book

This book was not terrible. I read it from beginning to end and if it were terrible I would have quit. It’s very cute. Unfortunately nothing really happens. ItS a story with no plot or conflict. I kept waiting for something exciting or unpredictable to happen and it didn’t
Maureen Neylon
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just loved this story. Felt like a combination of a Boston Irish history book and listening to my parents tell stories of their family Snd friends growing up years. So many familiar stories and references. Especially all the Jordan Marsh mentions. Made me really miss living back home and all the memories made there.
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recent-reads
Although there were parts of this book I didn’t like (the husband/father), I’m very glad I read it. My mother grew up in NYC, and was Irish Catholic. I learned a lot about terms my mother said, ideas about the church and the importance of First Holy Communion. The vehicle of the red coat was an excellent one. I’m sure life in Boston was similar to that in NY back in the day.
Mary Norton
Sep 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting to learn more about the neighborhoods and culture of Boston in the pre and post WWII era. The author created the feeling of reading a memoir/diary of the families involved. A follow=up novel would be most welcome.
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book, primarily because so much of the story brought back so many memories of growing up w Boston, and if my mother. I, TOO, could never tell whether t was a memoir and that was distracting.
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In my opinion this is the best book I have read in a long time!
I absolutely loved it. Terri you have to read it! Any one else raised Catholic needs to read it . And even non-Catholics may enjoy it. So, so good!
Marion T. Cooney

I really enjoyed this wonderful book. Reading about the family and their love for each other and their love for their city of Boston. The on going gift of the very special red coat makes a wonderful story.
Linda Villalobos
It took me back to my childhood.

For those of us who grew up in and around Boston in the 50s, this story can take us back to Jordan's and Filene's, the Common, the nuns and the innocence of those days.
Dolores Fanelli
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book

Once I started reading this I couldn’t put it down. I really
Enjoyed not only the storyline, but the way it was written and the way it tied all the people together.

Ann Marie
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book. My parents came to America from Ireland and settled
in NYC. The Red Coat brought back a lot of memories from my childhood. So many expressions, and events resonated true for me. I hated for this book to end
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