Hello there and welcome to The Turndog Review: the books I read, reviewed.
I aren’t a professional critic, instead all I offer is my honest opinion into everything I read. However, I do this with a difference, as I don’t only offer my personal views on the Writing, Plot, and Story, but also the Book Cover, Book Marketing, and Author Website.
We live in a modern world where being a writer is different to years gone by, and I feel the whole experience of the book matters. This covers everything from the initial find, the actual read, and everything that follows. Therefore I hope this review not only offers a great insight into the book and author, but also into my own mind and what makes me tick.
So without further ado let’s begin, and today I focus on The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore
Read: February 2012
Discovered: Part of my read as a Guest at Leeds Boys Book Club
The Greatcoat is published by Hammer Books, so comes with expectations of keeping you on the edge of your seat. It’s a ghost story set in 1952 Yorkshire (not too far from where I live) and focuses on Isabel Carey as she moves into her new flat with her husband, and finds a mysterious Greatcoat from the war.
She suddenly, and mysteriously, begins to come across an RAF pilot, and as the story proceeds she finds memories that are surely not her own. She goes on daily walks, and speaks to the pilot, and their relationship develops. Yet is it real? Is her husband going to find out, and if he does, what will happen? Will she even care?
Overall this was a disappointment on all scales. It was not scary, and it did not keep me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t even consider it to be a ghost story until late in the book, as she came across as someone coping with psychological issues more than anything else. It felt as if it was going down a ‘Beautiful mind’ type road, which in my opinion would have made for a better story.
Instead it becomes lost between genres and the story has no real personality.
The biggest positive of this book is the writing itself, and Helen Dunmore showcases her skill set excellently. The descriptions are immense, and I really felt part of the cold Yorkshire weather, and as if I was standing alongside Carey on her walks to the old RAF base.
The other main strength was its length, and thankfully the short nature of the story allowed me to whisk through the read and move on to pastures new.
In my opinion the plot just didn’t make sense. It seemed lost all the way through, and I only once felt excited and on edge, and that quickly ended after about four pages. It seemed to be stuck between a few genres, and as such never got going, which is a shame because the author is clearly a brilliant writer.
It also seemed rather poorly edited, especially when you consider the acclaim of the author and tradition of Hammer. There was a lot of POV jumping, and many of the characters seemed redundant. The husband, for example, played such a large role, yet I never understood who he was nor why. I came away feeling the story didn’t need him, which is strange considering the large nature of his role.
I actually like this cover, although I feel it’s more adept for a paperback than an Ebook, and feel it encompasses the story and the plot well. Its dark covers are nice, and the title of the book stands out. The man in the window is also intriguing, and as soon as you read the book you understand its relevance.
I’m no expert when it comes book covers, but I know what I like, and the cover is my favourite part of this entire experience.
I read this via the Kindle and found the whole marketing within the book quite lazy. Hammer has quite a loyal following and I feel the publishers could have linked and showcased quite a lot of their other content. This wasn’t done though, and it’s a missed opportunity I feel.
As for the author, again, there is little for fans to find, so anyone who liked what they read in Helen Dunmore would have to go and find the information. This isn’t an issue these days, but it adds a barrier that could easily be taken down.
Author Website & Engagement:
I find the author’s personal website nice and very informative. It isn’t flashy, but does provide a great deal of info about Helen, and feel this is ideal for her general audience.
There is very little in terms of engagement though, which I find a tad disappointing, but her target audience may not desire this – at least not online anyway. It overall embodies the life of a big time author, which although isn’t right, is understandable.
Does Helen engage with her fans in other manners? I’m not sure, but I can only hope she does as it is a huge factor for in this modern world.
Overall this book is not for me. It’s certainly not a genre I read often, and it isn’t something that has me clambering for more. It was slow, and tedious, and at times left me asking why things were occurring.
It seemed rushed, as though Hammer needed some stories out and just began approaching authors and saying “here, have something for us in two months.”
It never felt particularly part of Helen Dunmore, and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear the plot was never hers in the beginning. It’s a shame, because she’s clearly a very skilled writer, and I was often in awe at the descriptions put in front of me.
So leaves the score, which I’m afraid is a rather meager…
2 Turndogs out of 5
Thanks for reading this version of The Turndog Review. I review every book I read, not only for the writing, but the marketing, website, and general communication from the author.
Turndog Millionaire – @turndog_million