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The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer – a review – BLOG TOUR


I have previously read and reviewed Kate Hamer’s debut novel which I very much enjoyed therefore I was pleased when I was invited to take part in the blog tour for The Doll Funeral.

I must admit to not really being clear what the book was about before I started it (the perils of ARC copies) so wasn’t really sure what to expect therefore this came as a interesting surprise. The Doll Funeral tells the story of young Ruby who finds out that she is actually adopted. She has always fantasised about this so when she finds out it is true she is determined to find her real parents. She is accompanied by her imaginary friend Shadow, and along the way meets Tom and Elizabeth who live in the woods.

This certainly isn’t my usual type of story. There isn’t a murder or a detective for a start. It is the story of a young girl in the 1980’s with strange powers, and of a single mother in the 1970s stuck in an unhappy marriage.  These two stories intertwine slowly as the characters actions and motivations become clearer.

Whilst the story is certainly interesting, the real strength of this novel is the writing style. The descriptions and prose really are beautiful. You feel for the plight of Ruby, a poor lost young girl who is old before her time. I particularly enjoyed the parts where she was living with her friends in the woods as they struggle to survive. For me the story was quite slow, but the characters are all intriguing, and the story builds up to a haunting ending.

If you enjoy an element of supernatural in your stories, and like good writing then this is definitely a book for you.

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The Girl in the Red Coat – Q&A with Kate Hamer

A while ago I was lucky enough to read a copy of The Girl in the Red Coat which was the debut novel by Kate Hamer, my review can be found here. To celebrate the launch of the paperback version of the book I’m today taking part in Kate’s blog tour and managed to catch up with her to ask a few questions.

What was the inspiration behind the story in The Girl in the Red Coat?

It was twofold really. Firstly, it’s a book about the relationship between mothers and daughters. When I took a look at novels where this was the main feature they seemed very thin on the ground which seemed strange for such an interesting and potent relationship. Secondly, I kind of ‘saw’ Carmel – not in reality of course but in my mind’s eye. She was a little girl wearing a red coat, standing in a forest, lost. From that moment on I knew I wanted to find out what had happened to her.

I believe you attended a novel writing course whilst writing the book, did attending this influence you a lot? Did it change the plot of your novel at all?

The plot didn’t change at all but the course encouraged me to look at the book with a technical eye as well as the emotional one. I also met a bunch of brilliant people. Sharing your work can be hard but if you want to be published it’s essential. It was a great environment to do that in – everyone passionate about books and supportive but not afraid to say what they think.

What is your typical working day like?

I try to start by at least 9.30 to harness that morning energy. Of course everyone’s different but I’ve spoken to many, many writers who are the same, and for whom the mornings are the most creative buzzy time for writing. I start by going over work already written. I’m always tempted to read the novel right from the beginning but as I get further and further into it that becomes completely untenable as you’d spend the whole day reading! I carry on working until mid or late afternoon and then make myself go out for a walk. Sitting writing all day isn’t the healthiest of occupations! Sometimes, I’ll go for a walk anyway – if it’s really not working. I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep sitting there when it’s really not flowing. I find thinking time just as important as writing time.

What is your ideal afternoon off work?

I love window shopping – the business of other people, lights, fashion, window displays. For me it’s the perfect antidote to sitting in a room alone writing. Then it would be on to an early supper with friends or family – perfect!

That sounds like a perfect afternoon to me! Do you read a lot yourself and if so who are your favourite authors?

I read constantly but with always a slight anxiety that I will never be able to read absolutely everything I want to in one lifetime! I think reading is the most important thing for a writer to do. In terms of favourite authors that changes all the time depending on what I’m reading – at the moment I’m immersed in reading the Italian author Elena Ferrante. But I do have old favourites – Maggie O’Farrell, Edna O’Brien, Ian McEwan. I love unputdownable dark twisty thrillers such as Erin Kelly’s ‘The Poison Tree’ and it’s also great to read very new stuff – two that have really caught my eye that are being published this year are ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ by Joanna Cannon and ‘The Anatomy of a Soldier’ by Harry Parker. Both brilliant reads.

Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll have a look at those. If you were not a writer what would be your ideal job?

I fantasise about being a gardener sometimes, though generally when the sun’s shining so I’d be a rather fair weather one!

Finally what are you working on next?

I’m on the second draft of another novel. It’s a coming of age tale again, threaded through with the supernatural. These dark months over the winter have been great to get immersed in it.

Thanks very much to Kate for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions. I look forward to her next novel coming out.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer is out now (Faber & Faber, £7.99)

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Deal breaker

This weekend I spent a lovely Saturday afternoon catching up with two very good friends over a couple of bottles of wine. It was, as always, lovely to see them and we had a nice afternoon looking at their wedding pictures and catching up on all the gossip (well two of us did, one half of our friendly foursome were mainly interested in the football for the first couple of hours)

Over dinner as is often the case the subject of books was discussed. The M’s have always been a big supporter of my blog and it’s always nice to hear that someone other than the Mother actually reads it. One thing that came up was a request for book recommendations before Mrs and Mrs M set off on their honeymoon.  Apparently Mrs M had picked up a copy of Girl on a Train based on my enjoying it, and so she fancied some similar reading matter.

You’d think that this would be a simple thing for me to do. I love books, I love reading books, I love reviewing books and I love talking about books. However offering recommendations absolutely terrifies me. It’s a challenge utterly fraught with problems that can be a real deal breaker. What if I recommend a book and they don’t like it? It could ruin their honeymoon. What if I recommend a favourite of mine and they think it’s terrible? It could ruin a friendship. What if I recommend a book and they are really bored by it? It could ruin my blogging reputation (ok that’s a bit of a long stretch)

However I’ve decided to bite the bullet and offer my holiday reading recommendations based on the caveats put on them by Mrs M. Namely they should be as gripping as Girl on a Train and good enough to keep her interest despite the very easy distractions of beaches, sunshine and cocktails. So here goes. My top 5 reads good enough to take on honeymoon:

Disclaimer by Renee Knight – a review

Great story, interesting angles and perfect holiday reading matter.

The Liar’s Chair by Rebecca Whitney – a review

Slightly more disturbing than Disclaimer but a gripping tale with unreliable narrators giving it a claustrophobic feel perfect for open air beach reading.

The Deaths by Mark Lawson – a review

A tale of suburban family life that’s a great antidote to the excesses of an all inclusive buffet restaurant.

Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham – a review

Not only one of my favourite authors but also a great standalone novel with a holiday front cover.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer – a review

A great story and she’ll also hopefully be appearing here in December to answer some questions, (so clearly a bit of self-promotion but it’s still a great book honestly!)

So that’s the end of it, my top 5 holiday reads. Fingers crossed they go down well, and there are more afternoons of wine and chat in the new year!

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The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer – a review

I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this at the Crime Festival last year. It was attached to a display that included a copy of a newspaper article proclaiming that the Girl in the red coat will be appearing at a church ceremony with her healing powers.

Beth has recently divorced and is trying to rebuild her life with her daughter. Eight year old Carmel is a dreamy child, who even her mother thinks is strange. Beth and Carmel go to a local children’s festival one day. Beth wants to make it a special day for them both, but is still distracted by her recent divorce. It’s from the festival that Carmel goes missing. As her mother frantically searches for her, Carmel is being taken away by a man called Pastor Dennis who believes she is a healer. Pastor Dennis runs the Church of Truth and thinks that Carmel could be the saviour he is looking for.

The Girl in the Red Coat is the debut novel from Kate Hamer and it certainly shows promise. The story is told from the viewpoints of both Beth and the young Carmel which gives the book an unusual perspective. The passages from Beth when she realises Carmel has gone are disturbing and you can feel her terror. Equally I enjoyed the story from the point of view of Carmel and her gradual realisation of the situation she is in. The story spans 5 years as Carmel grows up into a teenager without her mother as she travels round America, and Beth tries to move on whilst never wanting to give up hope that somehow she will find out what happened.

I enjoyed a lot of the descriptions throughout the book and felt that it was an interesting premise. Rather than just following Beth, reading Carmel’s story and knowing that she was still alive meant this book felt quite unique. My only slight criticism, that meant I wasn’t completely bowled over by it, was that personally I did feel that it was a little long. Towards the end it seemed to vear off track slightly and the ending was almost too abrupt with a few too many coincidences for me. However it did mean that all the loose ends were tied up which I like.

The Girl in the Red Coat is most definitely worth a read. I imagine that Kate Hamer will certainly be an author to watch out for in the future, and fingers crossed we see her at a festival soon..


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