The Greatcoat, Helen Dunmore

Isabel Carey is newly married and attempting to cope with living in rented accommodation in East Yorkshire during the years of austerity after the end of World War II. Her doctor husband is usually away from home, attempting to establish himself in his career as a country doctor and Isabel is always cold and haunted by the hostility of the landlady and her ceaseless pacing on the floorboards overhead.

The discovery of a greatcoat stuffed into the recesses of a cupboard changes everything. Isabel is warm beneath its weight on her bed but increasingly involved with the figure of an airman who comes tapping at the ice-covered window.

Isabel becomes possessed by Alec, the airman, who relives the time between his 26th and 27th bombing raid and brings to life, for the reader too, the East Yorkshire wartime airfield. Alec and his relationship with Isabel become more real for her than her life with Philip and, with her, we wait on the side of the airstrip for the Lancasters to return – or not.

This is a gripping ghost story that captures superbly the penury of the early fifties and the relationships, griefs and joys of that period. I simply couldn’t put it down until I had reach the beautifully crafted final moment.