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A chilling and atmospheric ghost story by the Orange-prize-winning Helen Dunmore.

In the winter of 1952, Isabel Carey moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire with her husband Philip, a GP. With Philip spending long hours on call, Isabel finds herself isolated and lonely as she strives to adjust to the realities of married life.

Woken by intense cold one night, she discovers an old RAF greatcoat hidden in the back of a cupboard. Sleeping under it for warmth, she starts to dream. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled by a knock at her window.

Outside is a young RAF pilot, waiting to come in.

His name is Alec, and his powerful presence both disturbs and excites her. Her initial alarm soon fades, and they begin an intense affair. But nothing has prepared her for the truth about Alec's life, nor the impact it will have on hers ...


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

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

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    December 3, 2012


    272 pages

    RRP $24.99

    Online retailers

    • Fishpond
    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

  • Hardback


    April 2, 2012


    208 pages

    RRP $29.99

    Online retailers

    • Fishpond
    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

  • EBook


    February 2, 2012

    Cornerstone Digital

    272 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks NZ
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    • Booktopia NZ

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

Also by Helen Dunmore

Birdcage Walk
The Lie
Fatal Error
The Betrayal
Counting The Stars
Burning Bright
Your Blue-Eyed Boy
With Your Crooked Heart
A Spell Of Winter
House Of Orphans
Mourning Ruby
The Siege


The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
Echo Burning
A Gentleman in Moscow
Best Laid Plans
Fool Me Once
The Golden House
The Girl on the Train
The Heart's Invisible Furies
Swing Time
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Girls
Cold Blood
Fifty Shades Darker
The Trip of a Lifetime
The Light Between Oceans
Ready Player One