A terrifyingly atmospheric ghost story by the Orange-prize-winning Helen Dunmore.
In the summer of 1954, newlywed 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.
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 realisation when she finally figured out who Alec was and what had brought him to her. Having the world you know fall away from you with no one to turn to or confide in only made her already miserable life worse.
Despite the heaviness, Isobel’s story was a very easy and enjoyable read. The author’s ability to weave a story that draws the reader into the lives of her characters became apparent to me. I was unable to put the book down until I had discovered the fate of Alec and Isabel. A hauntingly beautiful tapestry of the past and the present intermingling.
At the conclusion of the book, there is an Afterword section from the author on how the book came into being. It was very interesting reading and brought more depth to Isabel and Alec’s tale.
“Nature does not heed our hourglass,” – Christian Geyer.
From moving to a new house to making new friends and preparing for high school, life for the new girl in town can be unsettling. But thirteen year-old Courtney is unprepared for how creepy life in Murmur, Massachusetts turns out to be. Her ivy-covered house overlooking the antiquated cemetery next door is one thing, but Courtney finds herself thrust into a full-fledged haunted adventure after meeting Christian and Margaret Geyer, a strange father and daughter with unfinished family business. The body of their ancestor, Prudence, has gone missing from beneath her ivy-carved tombstone and must be returned to its final resting place in order to break the spell that looms over Courtney’s house. To add to the suspense and help solve the mystery, authentic documents and photographs are set at the beginning of each chapter pertaining to Murmur, Courtney’s house, and the infamous cemetery. Will Courtney uncover the secret lurking within the dark, dank underbelly of her ivy-covered basement?
The title of this book does little justice to the fantastic tale that is found within its beautiful cover. Before I go any further I must mention the book. The person responsible for the design of it had a masterstroke of genius. The beautiful green cover is adorned with a tombstone inscription of Prudence Geyer (the character the book is based around). On the back, ivy vines are spreading from the edge.
When you open the book is when the magic starts. You find a map of the area surrounding Courtney’s house. Every page is tinted with a hint of green to give the impression the ivy could appear at any time as it does in the story and it does. As the story builds in suspense ivy winds its way across the page. To add even more atmosphere to this intriguing tale. Each chapter starts with an article from the local paper “The Murmur Mercury” and pictures of a young girl, the cemetery and the surrounding area are placed throughout. If you are planning to read this book I would suggest buying a physical copy as an e-book would not provide the magic that a physical copy does. Some books have to be physically held to experience them.
The story itself is a well written YA tale. All characters are strong well written and they have a presence that demands you get to know them. I stayed awake until the early hours of the morning as I just could not stop reading. It was as if the ivy that spreads everywhere in the book had grabbed hold of me demanding that I discover what happened to Prudence, her father and the witch. It truly has something magical about it. A tale of ghosts, diary entries from a broken-hearted father and the ever-present ivy. It will grab readers of any age and hold them until the truth is finally revealed.
Maud Drennan – underpaid carer and unintentional psychic – is the latest in a long line of dogsbodies for the ancient, belligerent Cathal Flood. Yet despite her best efforts, Maud is drawn into the mysteries concealed in his filthy, once-grand home. She realises that something is changing: Cathal and the junk-filled rooms are opening up to her.
With only her agoraphobic landlady and a troop of sarcastic ghostly saints to help, Maud must uncover what lies beneath Cathal’s decades-old hostility, and the strange activities of the house itself. And if someone has hidden a secret there, how far will they go to ensure it remains buried?
Book reviewed for NetGalley and Canongate Books
Publication date 1st February 2018
The Hoarder seems like your average ghost story. As you dig deeper, it soon becomes clear that it is anything but average. You are confronted with a labyrinth of family secrets, ghostly apparitions, betrayal and a group of most unhelpful saints. Like Cathal wading through the mountain of rubbish that fills every conceivable space in his home. The reader wades through this atmospheric story with their heart racing and their mind working overtime trying to figure out what secrets are hiding in Bridlemere. As a psychic and ardent believer in the afterlife, I knew I had to read this book as soon as I read the blurb.
All characters were extremely well written, coming to life on the page. Maud and Cathal were amongst my favourites. Maud for her straightforward no-nonsense attitude and Cathal for his cunning nature. The story itself has an almost oppressive feel to it but in a good way. It draws the reader in making them feel part of everything that is going on around them. When I was reading the parts set in the house, I could sense the overwhelming feeling of grief, loss and foreboding that came from Cathal. As the story builds to its surprising conclusion, many secrets are brought into the light.
Will definitely be re-reading this again in the future.