‘The Doll Funeral’ – Kate Hamer

I haven’t yet read The Girl in the Red Coat, but based on my reaction to this I might be tempted to obtain a copy.

This novel is set in two different time periods, the 1970s and 1983. Initially, the switch between narratives and times is confusing – but as we learn of the link between the two characters, it becomes easier to follow.

The character of Ruby – our main character of 1983 – was an interesting one. Rather precocious in some ways, but desperately unhappy in others, Ruby is a thirteen year old caught on the cusp of maturity. She inhabits a strange shadow-land in-between childhood and adulthood. When she receives the news that her adoptive parents, Barbara and Mick, are not her parents she is desperate to find her roots and family. However, things are not that straightforward. Much as you want her to get her happy ending, you get the feeling that it’s not going to be so easy.

Our second character, Anna, was less well-defined for me. She is a somewhat naive seventeen year old who finds herself pregnant. Against social conventions she decides to keep her child, but her relationship with the father is not an easy one and neither is in the best position to act as parents to their young daughter.

The two narratives are linked, and we can see how quite easily. However, the main appeal for me of this novel as in the atmospheric description of the woods around the Forest of Dean and exploring the characters’ emotions. The boundaries between the living and the dead are blurred throughout this narrative. Ruby has been friends with ‘Shadow Boy’ since she was a child, and she can definitely sense things that nobody else can see. The descriptions of Ruby’s forays into the woods are creepy, but I couldn’t wait to see what happened.

This was eminently readable, and though elements were not totally successful for me it worked as a whole to create a much more optimistic read than I was expecting.

Thank you to publishers Faber and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in advance of publication.