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

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

 
redcoatCarmel 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.

The plot is tightly-woven with plenty of unexpected twists, as we gradually find out why Carmel was taken, and where. I’d hate to spoil anyone’s reading, so I’ll try to say as little as possible about the mesmerising sequence of events. There’s plenty to write about the way the novel is constructed.

Kate Hamer has set herself the very ambitious task of giving voice to both Carmel and her mother, the former in first person, the latter in third person narrative. The chapters alternate smoothly between the two voices, and the feeling of being inside both a child’s head and that of her brave, grieving mother is fascinating. Both Carmel and Beth are memorable characters. Carmel is genuinely childish but incredibly endearing as well as razor-sharp and direct as children often are.

Like Emma Donoghue did in ROOM, Hamer starts off with a premise we think we know – an abducted child – and takes the reader somewhere completely unexpected. This is a beautifully written and highly original story that is gripping, thought-provoking and emotionally tender.

Emma Corfield-Walters

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