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About the book
  • Published: 2 February 2012
  • ISBN: 9781446474563
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 272

The Greatcoat

Orange-prize-winning author Helen Dunmore's terrifyingly atmospheric ghost story

In the summer of 1954, young wife, 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. It isn't easy. She feels out-of-place in the small town, 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 finds herself beset by dreams. And not long afterwards, a young air force pilot knocks at her window while her husband is out.

Her initial alarm fades as she becomes friendly with Alec, the airman. And soon they begin a delicious affair. But nothing could have prepared Isabel for the truth about Alec's life, nor the impact it will have on her own marriage...

  • Pub date: 2 February 2012
  • ISBN: 9781446474563
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 272

About the Author

Helen Dunmore

Helen Dunmore was an award-winning novelist, children’s author and poet who will be remembered for the depth and breadth of her fiction. Rich and intricate, yet narrated with a deceptive simplicity that made all of her work accessible and heartfelt, her writing stood out for the fluidity and lyricism of her prose, and her extraordinary ability to capture the presence of the past.

Her first novel, Zennor in Darkness, explored the events which led D. H. Lawrence to be expelled from Cornwall on suspicion of spying, and won the McKitterick Prize. Her third novel, A Spell of Winter, won the inaugural Orange Prize for Fiction in 1996, and she went on to become a Sunday Times bestseller with The Siege, which was described by Antony Beevor as a ‘world-class novel’ and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year and the Orange Prize. Published in 2010, her eleventh novel, The Betrayal, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Orwell Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and The Lie in 2014 was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the 2015 RSL Ondaatje Prize.

Her final novel, Birdcage Walk, deals with legacy and recognition – what writers, especially women writers, can expect to leave behind them – and was described by the Observer as ‘the finest novel Helen Dunmore has written’. She died in June 2017, and in January 2018, she was posthumously awarded the Costa Prize for her volume of poetry, Inside the Wave.

Also by Helen Dunmore

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Praise for The Greatcoat

“the best kind of ghostly tale - one that has you pondering its implications - and checking the back of dark cupboards - long after the final page”

i, Independent

“You won't find plastic fangs or Dulux blood in Helen Dunmore's perfect little ghost story ... Dunmore conveys a shivery menace and concealed tragedy; this is the most elegant literary flesh-creeper since Susan Hill's The Woman in Black.”

The Times

“This is a haunting and exquisitely crafted tale where the line between the real and the imaginary becomes blurred.”


“The Greatcoat is a well-written ghost story that observes the traditions of the genre without subsiding into pastiche ... Dunmore uses motifs and themes as a kind of Greek chorus ... these are subtly deployed, and enhance the atmosphere in this disturbing, thoughtful novel.”

The Literary Review

“An atmospheric and accomplished ghost story.”

Woman & Home

“A taut, elegantly written ghost story… Wielding her skill at bringing history to life in the small, dismal details of the post-war period, and showing off her talents as a poet in her mesmerising depiction of possession, Dunmore is on fine form here.”

The Sunday Times

“The art of the ghost story requires delicate balance. The supernatural itself does not have to be convincing. It is enough that characters in the fiction are convinced by it. This was Scott's way in, to give only one example, The Bride of Lammermoor and also Buchan's in that remarkable and uncanny novel, The Dancing Floor and in his short stories about the supernatural. It is Dunmore's here too, in this beautifully written tale, and because she achieves this delicate balance, it comes off splendidly.”

The Scotsman

“Helen Dunmore's exquisitely written ghost story works its way with spooky subtlety into your imagination.”

Mail on Sunday

“A powerful evocation of period, and the tricks the mind can play on itself, its unadorned prose builds a chilling effect reminiscent of The Turn of the Screw.”


“Her latest work is not a new departure but a development of familiar strengths: drawing us in to a compelling fictional world, populated by characters who live and love with vivid self-awareness. Dunmore has a sharp eye, and a fine-pen, for the hairline cracks in a new marriage ... Dunmore's gift, familiar from The Siege and The Betrayal, is to use a finely drawn domestic setting to show the great events of European history on a human scale.”

Sarah Moss, Guardian

“An unnerving breathlessly told love affair”

Sainsbury’s Magazine

“Sweetly spooky and romantic tale”

Press Association

“Beautifully written”

Oxford Times

“a sweetly spooky and romantic tale”

Style (Cambridge)

“A classic ghost story ... where the novel stands out is in its wonderful sketches of the utter creepiness of life in Carey's dark little flat ... a perfect ghost story, that will reward Hammer horror readers as well as open-minded Dunmore fans. This ghostly, literary war story could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”

Independent on Sunday

“A great read, peopled with likely characters and a satisfyingly spooky outcome.”


“I love ghost stories and this one is hugely atmospheric.”

Judy Finnigan

“Wrap yourself in a blanket, pour a glass of wine and lose yourself in this atmospheric ghost story ... full of twists, turns and jump-out-of-your-skin shocks, we'd advice you leave the lights on while reading.”

WeightWatchers magazine

“Dunmore evokes the loneliness of the newlywed protagonist, to haunting effect.”

Radio Times

“I really enjoyed the authentic wartime detail in this book.”

Richard Madeley

“In her Afterword, Dunmore says that her inspirations for this ghost story were The Turn of the Screw and Tom's Midnight Garden, stories which deal with the past's imprint upon the present. Her own story stands comparison with those illustrious models… A genuinely eerie story in which both the living and the dead are equally real.”

Independent on Sunday

“Helen Dunmore’s The Greatcoat is many things—most of which can be modified with beautiful. It’s beautifully written and paced. It’s beautifully haunting. It even seems beautifully effortless as if each perfect word simply floated down to the page (although anyone who writes knows that books rarely ever happen that way).”

Pop Matters

“Tthe ideal ghost story for Halloween … Full of suspense … If you loved Woman in Black, you’ll love this atmospheric tale.”

Daily Express

“This book is spooky, erotic and evocative. We loved it.”

Richard & Judy, Daily Express

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