Review – The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer

By | March 22, 2015

She is the missing girl. But she doesn’t know she’s lost.

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…

While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is – and who she might become.

And now for another book that caught my eye on many of the 2015 “must read” lists – The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer was published in February by Faber and Faber for kindle and in hardcover.

For a first novel, this is very accomplished writing – a really different story, and a story very well told. I liked the use of the two different voices – it’s a device that enables you to feel and experience first hand, and although you might not entirely like her you certainly feel like a punch to the stomach Beth’s anguish and devastation when her daughter Carmel disappears at a storytelling fair. You get wonderfully into Carmel’s mind too – her sense of complete loss at being told what has happened to her mother, her anguish when her estranged father fails to get in touch, her childish fear of the dark in her new temporary home, her moving forward when forced to fit in with her new and very unusual family. It’s certainly the story of a journey – a physical one, and the story of Carmel’s coming of age against a backdrop that comes quite unexpectedly alive and makes this a book that is really difficult to categorise. Whether you see it as a coming of age story, a family drama, a thriller or something different, it’s certainly a really absorbing read. 

I’d like to be able to say “if you liked x, you’ll love this one”, but I’ll admit I’m finding it really difficult to draw comparisons. It’s well written – literary but accessible, very readable, well paced. There aren’t many laughs, but there are some lovely smiles as Carmel grows up and finds her way. Beth’s ongoing story of loss – and you really feel it with her – is very well done, and particularly gut-wrenching set against Carmel’s entirely separate storyline in her new life in a different continent.

Did I enjoy it? Yes, I did – for the quality of the writing, for the highly original story, and for the joy that is Carmel. It might not be on my list of top books of the year, but I certainly look forward to seeing what Kate Hamer comes up with next – whatever it may be, I have no doubt it’ll be an equally fascinating read. 

My thanks to netgalley and the publishers for my advance reading e-copy.

Meet Kate Hamer, with thanks to Goodreads:

I grew up Pembrokeshire and have had a passion for books since being a small child, I have written stories ever since I could hold a pencil. I studied art in university then worked in television for over ten years – mostly on documentaries, much of which involved using my writing skills.

I studied creative writing at Aberystwyth University and won a prize there for the ‘best beginning to a novel’ – the book that went on to be ‘The Girl in the Red Coat.’ I also completed the Curtis Brown Creative course. I won the Rhys Davies short story prize in 2011 and the winning story was read out on Radio 4.

I live in Cardiff with my husband and Mimi the cat. We go for long walks and to the pub quite a lot.

Why not follow Kate on Twitter?

2 thoughts on “Review – The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer

Comments are closed.