The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer
First published: 2015 by Faber and Faber
Number of pages: 384
My copy: Kindle download – book group selection for June
Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children’s festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift…
This book is told in the first person by two characters – Carmel and her mother Beth. I found Beth hard to like at first – she came across as awkward and standoffish. Meanwhile, Carmel isn’t your typical eight-year-old – she is quite quirky but also endearing.
When tragedy strikes and Carmel disappears, we continue to get these two points of view, which makes the story really interesting. As the story develops and time passes, the author manages to convey the feelings of both characters and the changes they have undergone as time has passed. The ways Beth copes with Carmel’s disappearance seemed believable and heart-wrenching, while Carmel struggles to make some sense of her new life. The other characters in the story are also fascinating, and really help build up the tension and interest in the tale. There are some magical elements to the book, but this is never overdone, making it seem plausible and believable. Also Carmel is very convincing as a young girl coming to terms with lots of different things.
Overall I really loved this book. I found the story gripping and sad, and the voices of the two different characters worked well and contrasted and complemented each other at times. I did find there was a bit of a lull in the middle where I wondered where the story was going, but this didn’t last long.
I think the ending may disappoint some readers, but it really worked for me. This is the kind of story that will stay with me for a while and I would read more from this author.
My rating: 9 out of 10