First thoughts

The Greatcoat

Helen Dunmore

Hammer Books, €13.60;

ebook, £5.19

Review: Daisy Wyatt

The Greatcoat is the first ghost story from Orange Prize winner Helen Dunmore.

Set in 1950s East Yorkshire, Isabel Carey is a young newly-wed getting used to domestic life. Her husband Philip, the local GP, is well-meaning but Isabel soon grows lonely in her new role as a dutiful wife.

One night in her freezing flat she discovers an old RAF greatcoat hiding at the back of a cupboard. She sleeps under it and begins to dream.

Not long afterwards while her husband is out, she is woken by a vision of a young RAF pilot knocking at her window. His name is Alec and he stirs up emotions in Isabel that she has never known.

But is Alec a reality or a wishful figment of Isabel’s imagination?

Sadly, while the idea for this story is charming, the novel often feels flat. Dunmore doesn’t fully explore her characters, and the language tends to lack real richness.

Still, it’s a sweetly spooky and romantic tale.

All The Single Ladies

Jane Costello

Simon and Schuster, €13.99;

Kindle, £6.99

Review: Rachel Howdle

The fifth book from Sunday Times Top 10 best-selling author Jane Costello doesn’t disappoint.

All The Single Ladies is a fabulously funny journey following the escapades of Samantha Brooks. At first glance Sam has everything she wants, including her loving and intelligent boyfriend, Jamie.

Unfortunately for Sam, Jamie has increasingly itchy feet. Wanderlust gets too much for him so he quits the job he hates, books a one-way flight to South America and tells Sam it’s all over.

Not about to give up on the greatest love of her life, Sam, together with friends Jen and Ellie, plots a host of devious tricks to win him back before he is due to leave in three months time.

Will Jamie come to his senses and realise what he is about to leave behind? Or will Sam lose her heart to someone new as she learns more about herself and ultimately what she wants from life?

The Origins Of Sex: A History Of The First Sexual Revolution

Faramerz Dabhoiwala

Allen Lane, £25;

Kindle, €10.99

Review: Ben Major

Faramerz Dabhoiwala, a senior fellow in history at Exeter College, Oxford, explores the history of the so-called first sexual revolution in his debut book, which encompasses two centuries from 1600 to 1800.

It begins in an era of severe punishments for sexual transgressions, a time when women were charged with adultery and hanged after the birth of their bastard children and brothel keepers were branded.

As the book progresses, readers see a softening of attitudes in the big cities, especially London, that leads to an increase in prostitution and literary figures seeking greater freedoms.

The Origins Of Sex is a well thought-out examination of changing sexual attitudes that offers nuggets of delightful, and sometimes repugnant, detail.

Babies And Toddlers For Men: From Newborn To Nursery

Mark Woods

White Ladder Press, €14.95;

Kindle £4.80

Review: James Cleary

This self-help book for new dads does exactly what it says on the tin.

Woods’s experiences as a best-selling writer in this genre and father of two mean his language is simple and direct, ensuring the copy does not get lost in a fog of jargon and word-heavy direction.

Taking the reader through the journey from birth up to three years of age, there’s snippets of basic, easy-to-follow information which will be useful for new fathers and mothers alike.

Blending professional advice from medical experts and university studies, there are suggestions, tips, amusing anecdotes and, most importantly, no preaching.

No glut of self-help books can fully prepare you for the experience, but Woods’s book is as good a place to start as any.

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