A Cupboard Full of Coats Paperback – Jun 16 2011
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"A novel that pulses with rhythm, texture, language, and a story that keeps you locked to its pages. Brutally honest, expertly woven, and utterly mesmerizing. I loved this book." — Naseem Rakha, author of the international bestseller The Crying Tree
"An impressive debut, particularly notable for its pellucid prose." — Kirkus Reviews
Review Content:Edwards elegantly braids together the lives of three people whose entangled love for the same woman turns sour in this gut-wrenching and gorgeously lyrical debut novel. Fourteen years after Jinx Jackson's mother was killed, "Lemon," a man mysteriously involved in the events of the murder, shows up at her doorstep with crippling news: the murderer is out of prison. Jinx's first instinct is to run. Full well knowing it's "too late for regret," Lemon wants to "put the record straight." And over a period of three days, Edwards sweeps the reader along a stream of memories revolving around Jinx's mother, who chose an abusive relationship over loneliness. "To know her was to love her," and love her these characters did (and do), each in their own way, but some of that love contributed to her murder "in hot blood." Edwards has drawn complicated characters whose voices are as distinct as the choices they have made. Jinx propels the narrative forward with her raw honesty as she unpacks the "private disgrace" that is her life. Engrossing and human to the core, Edwards's novel wrings the heart in the most tender of ways. — Publishers Weekly
From the Back Cover
Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize
A Kirkus Best Book of the Year
Plagued by guilt, paralyzed by shame, Jinx has spent the years since her mother's death alone, estranged from her husband, withdrawn from her son, and entrenched in a childhood home filled with fierce and violent memories. When Lemon, an old family friend, appears unbidden at the door, he seduces Jinx with a heady mix of powerful storytelling and tender care. What follows is a tense and passionate weekend, as the two join forces to unravel the tragedy that binds them. Jinx has long carried the burden of the past; now, she must relive her mother's last days, confront her grief head-on, and speak the truth as only she knows it.
Expertly woven and perfectly paced, A Cupboard Full of Coats is both a heartbreaking family drama and a riveting mystery, with a cast of characters who linger in the mind and the heart long after the last page has been turned.--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition. See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
When Berris, Jinx's stepfather is released from prison, an old friend of both Berris and Jinx's mother stops by with the excuse that he is "just passing through and thought I might stop by."Jinx reluctantly allows him in, and the two of them spend the weekend talking and remembering the dreadful death of her mother.
Cubboard of Coats is a wrenchingly honest and gritty look at domestic abuse and its far reaching impact on family and friends.I found it to be a compelling and insightful read. Initially I was concerned that the subject matter might be too dark, but I quickly found myself totally immersed in the tale.
Cupboard of Coats never wallows in cliches, nor does it resort to stereotypes. A sad but ultimately redeeming read, not to be missed.
One evening Lemon, an old friend of her mothers, turns up unannounced with news to break. But there's more, and over an weekend of alcohol, music and sumptuous Montserratian cuisine they revisit the events that led up to the fateful night.
Although set in and around my old stomping grounds in London around Hackney Downs and Dalston Kingsland I did not expect to like this book. For a start it is littered with ridiculous name: Jinx, Lemon and Red, names which proffer and unnecessary distraction. However as the book went on I found myself wanting to know where it was going and even enjoying the process. The descriptions of the male characters, especially Berris and Lemon are well developed and harken back to a timeless sense of style, and the descriptions of the food had me salivating.
It isn't in conventional booker territory so I would be surprised to see it going through to the shortlist but for a first time effort by Yvette Edwards, it isn't half bad.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Jinx's first-person narration is emotionally raw and brutally honest. Her edgy voice is counterbalanced by Lemon's melodic, Caribbean diction. Over several days, the healing process begins as Lemon breaks down Jinx's self-defenses with home-cooked meals and other ministrations, including a foot massage that left Jinx a "shapeless, boneless heap of melted contentment." Edwards's vivid language captures the full range of human appetites and emotions with admirable precision. Jinx's dark thoughts are portrayed in clipped, brusque sentences--"I wanted to kill him. I'd been angry before in the past, but nothing on this scale ever. I wanted him dead"--but the passages of longing and desire are flowing and sensuous:
"He'd cooked oxtail and butter beans for dinner, with small round dumplings the size of marbles, brought it to me in my bedroom on a tray, waited while I adjusted the pillows behind my back and smoothed a level space on the duvet for him to put it down. ... The meat was so tender it fell from the bone, melting inside my mouth, the gravy spicy and so compelling I found myself unable to stop eating even when the plate was empty, sucking out every crevice of the bones, using my mouth like a bottom-feeder, my tongue like a young girl French-kissing an orange."
The narrative alternates between the present day interactions of Jinx and Lemon and Jinx's memories of her mother's last months of life, culminating in the events leading up to her violent death. A Cupboard Full of Coats is a masterfully structured novel, building suspense even though the ending is revealed on the first page. Impressive in its psychological complexity, this is one of the best novels I've read this year.
Jinx is emotionally closed down and unable to communicate with Lemon, her ex-husband or even her four-year old son. Her complete inability to bond with Sam, her son, is told with such complete lack of maternal empathy or love that I finished the scene of her aborted weekend with Sam intensely disliking the narrator. And then I realized with a shock that the author expected me to dislike her narrator, she was purposely withholding any facets of the narrator's personality that would create empathy. That is a very gutsy move early in an author's first book.
I never liked any of the characters in the book, except the brief view we have of Red, her ex-husband, but I didn't particularly care. I simply became intrigued to discover what the author would do with this unappealing narrator. And the answer is that the narrator slowly breaks through the immense self-protective shields created for self-protection as she listens to Lemon provide an alternative narrative of those earlier events.
The unfolding of events through alternate narratives is reasonably well done, though the narrative voice of the younger Jinx is an overly familiar coming of age saga that followed a predictably depressing story line. It is only in the interplay of that earlier narration with the older and emotionally shut-down Jinx that the story has originality. I don't think any particularly unique issues are raised in this book, but the handling of the narrative voices is very well structured. I would only hope that Ms. Edwards' next book might contain more likeable characters.
A Cupboard Full of Coats is an intense and gripping debut novel which was an interesting selection for the Booker Prize longlist, which is highly recommended.
She is bringing us to a place where words and the order in which they are written are lyrical in themselves and where the story they tell us is complex. Yvvette Edwards grew up in the UK where she sets her story; her heritage, like that of the main characters, is West Indian. She has mastered the language of both, moving to dialect with an unnerving smoothness that adds dimension to her complex story-telling. Her exposition is apparently simple: the main character narrates and we get plot and theme from what she tells us, what we eventually realize she hasn't told us and what they author allows us to understand the narrator does not understand. It is a coming of age novel. It is an immigrant living in but not of a larger, ex-colonial country. It is a love story. It is a parent child story. And it is a love story, or perhaps better said it is a story of many kinds of love and what happens when their dangers overwhelm. It is a Caribbean emigrant family story that is also universal. This author can do [and does] more than one thing at a time. And she does them powerfully. As we read, we smell and see and taste and feel the foods of Monserrat and Jamaica as well as their paler English versions. We hear music in the way that listening in Island-time, like listening after a disciplined study of music, allows us. We, too, are tempted to try to escape into the music, but the story continuously calls us back to its its unanswered questions. Immersed as we we are in the world where lightness and beauty can be confused with real danger, we struggle to learn what we did not know we did not know.
Ms. Edwards has a something to say and knows how to write. It is easy to understand why readers will gush that her prose is luminous, that her characters ring true, that she creates the dynamic tension that engages the reader. This is her first novel and so there are a few teases that expose themselves as technique, but the good thing is that Yvvette Edwards is has a writer with a new voice. Her story is unique and universal. She gives readers the gift of this novel. She makes me hope she has more stories to tell.