cover image The Greatcoat

The Greatcoat

Helen Dunmore. Grove/Atlantic Monthly, $24 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2060-1

In 1952, with England still suffering the aftershocks of WWII ("Shortages, restrictions, rules and ration books, coupons and exhortations..."), Isabel and her new husband Philip move to the countryside, where he is taking over a medical practice. While Philip is immediately absorbed in his work, Isabel feels lonely and unsure of her decision to enter into the life of a country doctor's wife. One cold night, Isabel discovers, in the top of the cupboard, an RAF greatcoat, apparently being kept by Mrs. Atkinson, their strange landlady. Before long the ghost of the coat's former owner, a WWII officer named Alec, appears outside the window and draws Isabel into a curious and passionate romance. It's only a matter of time before the truth of the officer's past is revealed. Orange Prize winner Dunmore (for A Spell of Winter) this time delivers more of a slender film treatment than a fully developed novel, with blurry paranormal rules and obvious themes about the impact of war and its losses on our lives. Agent: AP Watt, London. (Oct.)