The Doll Funeral
by Kate Hamer
Faber & Faber

Kate Hamer’s first novel, The Girl in the Red Coat (2015), was released at about the same time as Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train. The pair did readings together before Hawkins was wined and dined by Hollywood. That stratospheric triumph distracted from the success of Hamer’s own redemptive bestseller about loss and enduring love. Like its predecessor, The Doll Funeral is narrated by the young Ruby, a child wise beyond her years and possessed of a distinctive voice. Ruby marks her coming of age in near-mythological fashion. First, she learns that Barbara and Mick aren’t her real parents. Then she runs away, partly to find her birth mother, partly to escape continual abuse. The sense that Ruby is participating in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale rises with a possibly magical birthmark and the discovery of a ruined house occupied by three weird siblings. Hamer treads a fine line between Gothic lyricism and purple-prosed melodrama. She puts the reader in mind of Angela Carter, albeit in slightly decaffeinated fashion. But that’s no bad thing, especi­ally late at night.