Cover Image: The Doll Funeral

The Doll Funeral

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Member Reviews

Misclassified in my opinion, this is more supernatural/paranormal.  The first half was really promising, but the second half wasn't as great.
Grateful for the opportunity to read the book, but I wasn't blown away.
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I had high expectations from this, however, fell flat for me in the second half. Thanks to Netgalley and Faber & Faber for giving me the opportunity to read this.
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Thought this was well written but thought it would be more of a psychological thriller. On the whole I enjoyed it although I found it to be more of a supernatural storey.
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I genuinely loved this book, the atmosphere and description of the house and the woods, not to mention the character development and how the children ended up fending for themselves a truly captivating beautiful book.
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I’d been wanting to read The Doll Funeral for an absolute age, and I already had it on my Kindle from Netgalley. I finally found myself a rainy day and a few spare hours and sat down to read. Everybody has an idea of what a book is going to be like before going in to it, and I thought from the blurb that this was going to be a really quirky read, but boy did I get it wrong.

From very early on I got tired of Ruby’s voice and I found that I couldn’t connect with the story, and therefore struggled to actually give a damn what happened to her whilst still getting angry about everyone in the novel being able to turn a blind eye so easily. I understand part of the story is trying to show the effect that a hard parenting style has on children, how children interpret things that they have no context for, and also just about scratches the surface of the nature/nurture debate but it was just so unfulfilling. I like a book that has something to say.

The plot was completely unbelievable and the idea that Ruby and the other children are able to support themselves together in a house without anyone getting involved was simply frustrating. I also felt that the ‘twist ending’ was so ridiculous that I wanted to throw the book against the wall because it was just… so convenient. Oh, and if you’re going to have supernatural elements they need to be believable and I just couldn’t connect. I think that maybe I’ve just read so many stories that do the same thing so much better.

It’s very rare that I rip into a book in a review but I just felt so disappointed by a story that has such a good premise. I wanted so much more. And that’s not to say that no one will love it, it just wasn’t for me.
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I am currently developing a section of the school library that will present a diverse and eclectic range of contemporary crime and thriller novels. This genre has been so popular in terms of what is being borrowed, but I feel like the young people are sticking to 'what they know' in terms of titles or writers that they've already heard of or have seen their parents reading. My mission is to include more novels like this one and improve the range and diversity of fiction that they can choose from in order to expand their reading horizons. I absolutely loved this book. It kept me gripped from the very first page and without giving away any spoilers, was a dark, intense and satisfying journey. I think that the young people will love its distinctive voice as well as be gripped by the story and intrigued to follow it to its tense conclusion. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for intelligent, credible writing with a strong hook that won't let you go. Treat yourself to The Doll Funeral
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I did not enjoy this book. Maybe, I was expecting too much as I enjoyed the author's debut novel when I read it. There is nothing to compare between the two as they are very different. I have not published a review to my blog as I tend to focus on books that I recommend.
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A fairytale ghost story mixed with The Sixth Sense is what springs to mind when describing this book. It is not a crime story but more of a beautiful Gothic ghost story which sends shivers up your spine as the truth comes tumbling out of the pages.

Ruby is 13 years old when she finds out Mick and Barbara are not her real parents and she is over the moon with joy! I can't say that I blame her given the trauma that Mick puts her through and the ineffectual parenting of Barbara, who seems to want to cover it all up.  I must admit that there were times when I wasn't sure what was real and what was Ruby's reality.  However, it is worth waiting for as all is revealed by the end of the book. It is not a fast-paced read and those looking for an action-packed thrill seeker are going to be disappointed. Yet, there is something hauntingly magical and compelling about the novel that keeps you enthralled to the very end.

Beautifully written I think that there was an almost ethereal quality to the writing, a magical journey through forests and the lives of those who inhabit them. It was a sad novel, I got a real sense of loss about Ruby, a real sense of tragedy. The intense narrative that took you inside of the head of Ruby and those around her it was easy to get as lost in the pages as it would have been to get lost in the woods she describes.Kate Hamer's use of language is astounding; she honestly makes the pages come alive, it is as though she has painted every scene rather than just penned the words.

The Doll Funeral is also told from the perspective of Ruby's birth mother, Anna and it was Anna's story that moved me the most; an exploration of loss, grief and the paranormal may sound quite bizarre but it was an emotional rollercoaster. I felt haunted, happy and intensely sad throughout the book, each character's tale having a profound impact on me. From despising some of them to start with when I saw their journey mapped out then it was hard not to find myself sucked into the events that led them to where they were.

I'm not going to lie if I hadn't agreed to take part in the blog tour, this title would have probably kept getting pushed down my TBR pile but I can honestly say that I am glad that I took that step outside of my comfort zone! Yes, it is different to what I normally read, it is not crime fiction, it is not a psychological thriller but it is a beautifully written and intense Ghost story with a difference. Perfect for those who like their fiction haunted or those willing to take a leap outside of their usual comfort zone.
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A well-written, though at times bleak novel, about a thirteen year-old girl who can 'see' the dead. She sees many dead people, but the most constant presence is that of 'Shadow', a young boy who has made himself known to her throughout her life.

Ruby lives in The Forest of Dean with her parents Barbara and Mick. Her life is traumatic. Mick is a vicious and violent abuser who thinks nothing of slamming Ruby up against a wall, or making a meal of her face with his fists. Barbara seems to love her, but will not stand up to Mick's violence.  Ruby misses a lot of school due to her injuries. Mick is the school caretaker and doesn't want her to show up bruised at his place of work.

On her thirteenth birthday, Barbara and Mick tell Ruby that she is adopted.  Rather than being upset by this revelation, she is ecstatic.  It explains so much.  What a relief! She now devotes herself to finding her 'real' parents.

Ruby has a large red birthmark on one side of her face. She is ostracized at school, partly because she is 'different' and partly because of her home situation.  One day, when fear of Mick's violence overcomes her, Ruby bashes him in the head with a plank.  Thinking that she has killed him, she runs away to her beloved forest. She spends the night in a hollowed out tree. Upon her return to the house, she is packed off to live with Mick's sister in Coventry - away from the forest.  With some guidance from 'Shadow', Ruby runs away again - this time to the home of Tom, a fifteen year-old boy she met near her school.

"We are what our families have made us. But sometimes you can escape that."

As Ruby passes under the arch with the 'Green Man', she enters Hilltops, a large house where the squalor makes the living conditions much worse than the place she left.  Tom, his older sister Elizabeth, and his younger brother, Crispin live alone in a large house, which was once a commune. Their neglectful, 'hippie' parents have absconded for pastures new. Now the adolescent children run wild, in increasingly desperate conditions. Malnourished and cold, they resort to killing wildlife for sustenance.

"We're just sad stinking children, I thought. Lost and alone".

The story shifts point of view from Ruby in 1983 back to Ruby's birthmother Anna in 1970. Anna got pregnant at eighteen. She was unmarried, a difficult position for a young girl in 1970. She eventually marries Ruby's criminal father Lewis, but soon after the marriage she suffers from a psychotic episode that the psychiatrists label as postpartum psychosis.

"Family has been one long disappointment".

I love the way that Kate Hamer writes. Her sentences flow easily and she has a way of capturing emotions and scenes that resonate with the reader.  That being said, there were times while reading this novel that I thought I was having a psychotic break.  Fanciful by turns, I wasn't sure at times what was real and what was purely in Anna's or Ruby's imagination. The classic novel "Alice in Wonderland" was mentioned several times in the book, and there were times that I felt as though I had fallen down a magical rabbit hole while reading it.

I purchased the prequel novella "The world of Shadow" and read it prior to reading "The doll funeral". The novella introduces the reader to 'Shadow', the little dead boy that accompanies Ruby through her life.  I was thinking it would help me get a better grip on the book, but now I wish I had read it after the book...

I'm on the fence about recommending this novel.  It does contain beautiful prose and has an atmospheric setting. The story is at once heart-breaking and fantastical. I read the author's "Girl in the red coat" previous to this and I enjoyed that book more than this one. Although I went with it at first, I think the supernatural aspect of the story just got to be too much for me.  Themes of parental neglect, betrayal, and of course - the spirits of dead family abound. Recommended with some reservations...
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‘The Doll Funeral’ by Kate Hamer is a dark, despairing and at times confusing tale of identity and the creeping links of family and genetics across the generations. It is about the difficult adoptive families, about ‘not fitting in’, and how blood families sometimes don’t work either. Ultimately, family is where you can find it and make it.
Ruby’s mother Barbara is a cleaning lady who nicks small things she thinks won’t be missed. Father Mick knocks Ruby around, forcing her to miss school until the bruises fade. Then on her thirteenth birthday, they tell her she is adopted. Ruby’s response is to run into the garden and sing for joy. Of course nothing is as simple as it appears.
Ruby, determined to find her birth parents, runs away and makes her way to the creepy home of a strange schoolfriend Tom. I found the thread of Tom, Crispin and Elizabeth rather unrealistic and at times gruesome. It does however act as an alternative take on dysfunctional families, wild children and parental neglect. The budding relationship of Tom and Ruby, two outsiders, is touching.
Ruby’s tale is alternated with that of her mother Anna who falls pregnant as a teenager, first abandoned and then reclaimed by her boyfriend. Although I empathised with Ruby, I found her viewpoint rather mature at times for 13. For me, the story of her search for family was complicated by her ability to see ghosts. She doesn’t know their names or identities, so she gives them names such as Wasp Lady and Shadow. Shadow is the most present, speaking with Ruby and passing her information. At times, Shadow seems threatening, at others like a brother/sister. When the identity of Shadow is finally revealed, it was underwhelming and an aside from the key storyline. Almost as if the author had too many good ideas and didn’t want to drop anything. That said, the cover is beautiful.
The portrayal of the forest, both Ruby and Anna grew up in the Forest of Dean, is vivid, at times both reassuring and threatening. The significance of the title, though, passed me by, and I would have liked more of Nana’s folk magic.
This is not a novel I can honestly say I enjoyed. It considers difficult, slippery topics and so, thankfully, there is no neat ending.
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Thank you so much for allowing me to review The Doll Funeral. I have featured it in my July Reading Wrap Up and it has also previously been featured in a haul video:
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I enjoyed Hamer's first novel and so requested this. However I found this wasn't a psychological thriller or mystery as I expected,, the way her debut was. Instead it was a fairytale type of a story. Hamer writes well, but I couldn't get into this. This is just my opinion based on my taste.
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I loved The Girl in the Red Coat and couldn't wait to read this. However it wasn't quite what I expected. First of all this isn't a psychological thriller. Let's get that out the way. How shall I describe this? A fairytale-inspired supernatural magical realism. How's that? Don't get me wrong. I thought the writing was gorgeous and Hamer is without a doubt a terrific prose writer, but this book just wasn't my cup of tea. If you like fairytales or magical realism you'll love this. I personally found it hard-going. It just wasn't the genre I was expecting. I might reread in the future, now that I know this isn't a thriller and it's more of a supernatural fairytale, but for now it just wasn't for me.
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With a début novel like The Girl in the Red Coat, the pressure was always going to be on for the follow-up.  With The Doll Funeral, Kate Hamer once more displays her distinctive mix of the macabre and the everyday, with her novel again having more than a hint of the fairy-tale.  In another parallel to her first novel, the novel once more focuses on the relationship between mothers and daughters.  However, The Doll Funeral lacks the same intensity of focus that made its predecessor so agonisingly compelling, meanders from one plot point to another with little resolution and ultimately comes off as a novel which has tried to be many things and has ended up as very little.  There can be no doubt that Hamer is hugely talented as a writer but readers looking for an equal to Red Coat are destined for disappointment.

Hamer's main protagonist is Ruby, a thirteen year old girl living in rural poverty in 1983.  We meet her on her birthday, when her parents Mick and Barbara decide to tell her that she is actually adopted.  However, the narrative then switches back and forth with Ruby's birth mother Anna back in 1970, a teenage girl who finds herself pregnant and comes under intense pressure to either give up her baby or capitulate to marriage with the child's father.  Interestingly, at this year's Hay Festival, the author Colm Toibin launched a passionate denouncement of flashbacks, which have become rather ubiquitous in modern fiction.  It is a rather inorganic way of revealing character information and certainly, I felt that later revelations about Ruby's parentage might have packed more punch without it.

Back in 1983, Hamer explores the common childhood and adolescent fantasy of wishing one was adopted, with Ruby deciding that her 'real' parents will offer her more than the violent Mick and ineffective Barbara will ever be able to.  Having had a birthmark since childhood and being frequently obliged to miss school to hide her bruises, Ruby is an outsider, yet her outcast status is even greater than the average disaffected teenager from an unhappy home.  All her life, Ruby has been accompanied by the mysterious 'Shadow Boy' whose voice takes up a third strand of the narrative.  Sometimes Ruby sees people that others do not.  There is more going on here than she is quite ready to admit.

Finally fleeing Mick and Barbara, Ruby discovers a family of abandoned children living in the forest.  It was at this point that the story began to break down.  What has up to this point been a coming-of-age tale about a young girl seeking her origins becomes tangled and confused with the mystery of what has become of Crispin, with the side mystery of who the man in the van is who keeps coming to look in the shed.  By the time one has added in the references to Pilgrim's Progress and Alice in Wonderland, the book felt completely overloaded.

Hamer is one of those writers who has the ability to craft sentences so perfect that one pauses to truly take them in.  A particular favourite was when Mick was marching Ruby back from one of her escape attempts throught he back garden and she thought 'his mood felt enough to make the shirts hanging on the line snap and clap their cuffs together'.  With cars crashing, corpses being spotted hanging from trees and crumbling houses, Hamer has given herself plenty of opportunity to display her linguistic prowess.  However, with a plot so bogged-down and confused, her work goes unappreciated.

I have a feeling that there were around three decent books stuck together in The Doll Funeral but as it is, the book feels like a chore to trudge through.  In making mention of 1970s Anna and then 1980s Barbara's victimhood, I presume that Hamer was attempting to make a point about the position of women, but whatever it was got lost in the general noise of all of her other sub-plots.  With a title such as this, one assumes a novel about putting away childish things but Ruby's journey feels unfinished and the resolution for her new friends feels forced.  Hamer can do better than this.  I will look forward to when she does.
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I am not really sure what to make of this one, I think it was just a little too weird for me.

The blurb sounded great, Ruby decides she wants to find her parents after finding out she is adopted. She is beaten frequently by her step-dad so leaving to find her parents is not a difficult decision. What follows is her journey and for the most part I did enjoy it. My problem though was the supernatural elements, it was too confusing. I didn't know half the time what was real and what wasn't, and for that reason the book was not as enjoyable as it could have been for me.

Having said that Kate Hamer has a way of writing that you feel you are in the places she describes.  

3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
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Well I wasn't sure what to expect with this book but as they say expect the unexpected and this really was unexpected! The story had a really eerie almost ethereal feel, and felt as though it was set in a much earlier time than it actually was. An enjoyable read with well developed characters, I was intrigued and enchanted by this heart warming yet heartbreakingly tragic story.
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This book is much better than the introduction blurb suggests. Thank goodness I don’t give too much attention to these as it gives an impression of a different book to the one I have read.

Ruby is a messed up girl who is desperate to find her own place in the world, desperate for her parent’s love that every child deserves. It seemed to me that the whole village knew how she has been treated by her father and it made me angry that no one did anything to stop it, but I suppose such were the days. 

Finding out that Mick and Barbara are not her real parents certainly explained Mick’s awful behaviour towards her. It also sends Ruby on a downwards spiral whilst trying to find her family, living with the strange people in place she doesn’t understand. 

There are elements of the supernatural throughout the novel as it changes from Ruby’s story to the voice of Shadow – Ruby’s constant companion – the only ‘person’ that has been there for her as long as she can remember and the one that helps her on her way of discovery, pain, friendships and light. 

This book is beautifully written. It’s an emotional journey for the characters as well as the reader. It’s something different and it certainly stands out amongst a sea of the ever so popular thrillers and crime novels. It’s one to read and to remember.
Thank you to the author and NetGalley for access to this book in return for this honest review.
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Ruby has always felt different...and it's not just because her adoptive father, Mike, beats her. She has a close affinity with Spirits and can't help but see things that others can't. I enjoyed the description of her  background, and there was some uncertainty as to just how her mother's story linked.
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I found this book really hard to get into. I did persevere and I hope to return to it at a later date.
Thank you for the advanced copy.
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I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Kate Hamer, and the publisher, Faber & Faber, for this opportunity.

I had expected a thriller and instead this split-perspective tale was as bizarre as it was whimsical and otherwordly. Usually meandering tales, with a touch of the peculiar are exactly my type of read. This, however, fell flat for me in the second half.

I think once the reader was given the knowledge behind the curiosities that occur, I found my attention dwindling. The story was interesting and the characters felt very real, but once the initial magic was lost so was my love for this.
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