Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Book review: The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

I am clearly the world's worst blogger. I'm not going to beat myself up about it, I'm just going to post when I feel like it and after finishing this book last night, I felt I wanted to write something about it.

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The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

I was initially drawn to this book because I thought it was going to be a reworking of Little Red Riding Hood and retold fairy tales are my jam.  While the book has fairy tale tones to it, it is certainly not that story.  However, it is beautifully written and incredibly engaging so I wasn't at all disappointed.


It is difficult to say too much about the story without spoiling it.  Not that this is necessarily a book with twists and turns, but I think the story is better left to unfold naturally.  This is a novel about a little girl who goes missing, but it is not a straightforward mystery and does take somewhat of an unusual direction.

It's a novel about mothers and daughters, about the threads that weave through lives, that connect us with each other and with the world around us. It's the story of two strong women and what happens to each of them when they are separated. It's also about connections, relationships and community.  There is recurring imagery of webs, lines, threads, the ties that bind. In some ways I feel it draws from mythology; the Furies spinning out the cords of our lives.

The story is told from two perspectives; Beth, the mother and Carmel her eight year old daughter. I often find dual narratives irritating or confusing, especially when they are both first person, but it really works here for two reasons. Firstly, Beth speaks in past tense and Carmel in present and secondly, each voice was so distinctive that I never had trouble telling them apart.  Both characters are interesting and I really enjoyed getting inside their heads.


I read the whole thing over two days, partly because I was going to see Kate Hamer speak but also because it's very compelling. I'm a "guesser" and it isn't often that I can't see where a book is going even if the journey is still enjoyable. However, even with only 50 pages to go I still wasn't sure how this would end.  I didn't have time to read the whole book  before the event but afterwards I stayed up until I finished it. This really is an excellent novel, and I'm sure Kate Hamer is going to be one of my favourite authors.

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