Book Review: The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer

Book - The Girl In The Red CoatThe Girl In The Red Coat follows the story of an eight year old girl (Carmel) who goes missing whilst attending a storytelling festival. It begins from her mother’s perspective, as she reflects back on the years of growing up, how Carmel was always different to other children, drifting, unattached. I began reading this book whilst attending the Hay Festival, and found myself more aware than ever of how easy it could be for a parent to lose their child in such a busy place.    

It hasn’t made me paranoid (honest!), but this book has certainly given me a real insight into the mind of a parent, and a clearer understanding of just how severely one life can be attached to another. The library has labelled this novel as crime fiction, but it doesn’t really fit that genre. In fact, it seems more than anything, to be a sensitive and heart-rending portrayal of humanity at its most confusing.

It is difficult to describe the plot without giving too much away but, as Carmel begins to cope with a strange new life, away from everything familiar, we also see her mother’s attempt to keep going, to keep on hoping, to stay in the land of the living, desperately oscillating between guilt, hope and despair.

This is certainly a tantalising read, as you see plenty of opportunities for everything to be resolved, and yet each time something happens to stop it. The character of the old man (who takes Carmel) is strange but believable. It’s rare, but there are people like that out there, and eventually everything draws to a natural close, as he begins to feel a sense of guilt for past crimes.

I particularly love the way in which the distraught mother, her ex-husband and his new wife develop a sincere and genuine friendship, not something you often see in storylines, but something which does happen in real life. Above all, The Girl In The Red Coat is a love story, revealing love in all its varied, strange and sometimes distorted forms.

The Girl In The Red Coat and I Saw A Man by Owen Sheers, are two of the fiction books nominated for the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award 2016. To find out more, and cast your vote, visit the Wales Arts Review website. Voting is open until 30th June.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer

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