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A Cupboard Full of Coats Paperback – Jun 16 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld (June 16 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851687971
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851687978
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.1 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #893,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

"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

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize

A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year

Deeply moving, wonderfully written . . . a study of grief and remorse. Times (London)

In this potent mystery . . . Edwards makes us greedy for the full story. New York Times

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.

Engrossing and human to the core, Edwards s novel wrings the heart in the most tender of ways. Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A piercing and engaging narrative that navigates through past and present heartache with tenderness and candor. This promising new author twists and turns words with skill reminiscent of Toni Morrison and Barbara Kingsolver, who similarly explore hidden and revealed secrets. Booklist" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fourteen years ago Jinx's mother was killed in a terrible case of domestic abuse. Jinx blames herself for the death of her mother, and in so doing, cuts herself off from virtually all human connection, including her ex -husband and young son.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Fourteen years ago Jinx witnesses the horrific murder of her mother in their flat in the Pemsbury Estate in Hackney, London. It's an event that will blight her future relationship with her future husband and child and force her into semi-obscurity, feeling most comfortable with the cadavers she tends at the mausoleum where she works.

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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xb4dbe6b4) out of 5 stars 70 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb4e9790c) out of 5 stars One of the best novels I've read all year Aug. 20 2011
By G. Dawson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Yvvette Edwards's debut novel, A Cupboard Full of Coats, is an elegantly structured story of guilt and redemption. Fourteen years after her mother's murder, Jinx still blames herself for her role in the crime. She is living alone and in a state of emotional exile in London's East End, separated from her husband and young son, when Lemon arrives on her doorstep unexpectedly: "He just knocked, that was all, knocked the front door and waited, like he'd just come back with the paper from the corner shop, and the fourteen years since he'd last stood there, the fourteen years since the night I'd killed my mother, hadn't really happened at all." An old friend of Jinx's mom and her abusive husband, Lemon blames himself for the death. Lemon's arrival sparks "some kind of voyage of discovery" for Jinx and Lemon as they spend the next few days revisiting old wounds and reliving past events.

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.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb4cf5030) out of 5 stars A Claustrophobic World Sept. 3 2011
By las cosas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a first person narrative taking place in two time frames, the present and fourteen years in the past. The narrator is a 30 year old woman, Jinx Jackson, who lives in London, but whose family is from the Caribbean. Jinx is the main narrator of the earlier sections, but we also hear the voice of Lemon, a friend of Jinx's mother's fiance. Lemon shows up at Jinx's house one day and insists on reliving the events of that earlier time, events culminating in the murder of Jinx's mother.

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.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb4cbd8e8) out of 5 stars Hidden Guilt Oct. 26 2011
By Beverly Jackson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Every now and then I read a book that reminds me to be thankful for a loving and nurturing childhood, because a lack of one can often lead to a disturbing adult life. Yvvette Edwards' impressive debut novel, A Cupboard Full of Coats is such a book for me. The book is a tale of family dynamics, jealousy, tragic betrayals, and guilt that mesmerizes the reader through its searing language and characters drawn so well they fill spaces in the readers mind. Jinx, a 28 year-old woman who is haunted by her childhood, and the brutal murder of her mother 14 years ago, is the book's main narrator. While these events are always present in Jinx's mind, she has not spoken about them to anyone so lives her life in a fog, until a person from the past, Lemon, shows up at her door. With teasing language, Ms. Edwards hooks the reader from the beginning. "He just knocked, that was all, knocked the front door and waited, like he'd just come back with the paper from the corner store, and the fourteen years since he'd last stood there, the fourteen years since the night I'd killed my mother, hadn't really happened at all." Lemon is back because Berris, the mother's boyfriend, who was convicted of killing Jinx's mother, has just been released from prison and has asked Lemon to forgive him. Lemon has his own demons and needs for Jinx to forgive him for past transgressions. Jinx does let Lemon in, and over the course of three days, as the stories goes back forth between the present and the past we are told a tale that will test the limits of forgiveness.

As the truth reluctantly unfurls, and the interactions of Jinx, Berris, Lemon, and the mother are exposed, the reader is treated to lush descriptions of Caribbean food and the lifestyle of the Caribbean immigrants living in the East End of London. The use of food to nourish both the body and the spirit is a strong technique of this book. But, under this facade of gaiety and community, is the darker subject of domestic violence. This is never an acceptable behavior, and while Ms. Edwards does not shy away from the nasty consequences, she does an excellent job of stripping the characters to the core to reveal their warts.

Compelling narrative combined with strong storytelling and vividly flawed yet interesting characters will captivate the reader until the last page. I look forward to reading future works by the author. I recommend this book to readers of literary fiction who enjoy stories of the immigrant experience and family dynamics.

Reviewed by Beverly
APOOO Literary Book Reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb4cf92f4) out of 5 stars Style Excludes the Reader Oct. 13 2012
By Amanda Reads - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This was a book that was outside my comfort zone. Its characters belong to places and cultures that I've never been or never encountered, so I was looking forward to learning something about a different way of life. I didn't know what to expect from the narrative, since its synopsis implies an emotional drama but its cover art is utterly banal. I kept an open mind when it came to plot and style -- but I was still disappointed by A Cupboard Full of Coats.

That violent murder mentioned in the synopsis? You'd never know that was a plot point without first reading the back of the book. In the very first paragraph the narrator, Jinx, mentions that she killed her mother fourteen years ago. But given the tone of the story and the way it reads, I thought her death was an instance of euthanasia, possibly after a long illness, and not a violent murder.

The style of narration constantly and casually alienates the reader from the key issues of the narrative. Written in first person from Jinx's perspective, the book is limited to what Jinx knows, feels, and deigns to tell the reader. She doesn't tell outsiders much. There are endless paragraphs about how she wears her makeup, how the walls in her house are papered, how to make soup, etc., but basic questions aren't answered in a timely fashion -- like who the heck is Lemon? He shows up in the first page of the book after a long absence. Clearly he and Jinx have some sort of complicated history, but none of that is explained to the reader. While Jinx waxes poetic about home decor and the basics of showering, her audience is left to wonder what is going on between her and Lemon and why anyone should care. Who is this Berris that they keep mentioning so cryptically? How are any of these people connected? The book conceals its raison d'être, and therefore bores its reader.

As a narrator and protagonist, it was hard to like Jinx. She has a pessimistic outlook and isn't a very good person. Her relationship with her four year old son, for example, is strained because Jinx just isn't good at being a mother. She just can't relate to her kid and is easily frustrated or baffled by his behaviour. He, in turn, rejects his mother and feeds her resentment by attaching himself to every adult except her. It's easy to sympathize with how difficult it is to be a parent, but Jinx's habit of easily giving up on anything that is difficult, including her son, makes her a bit repulsive as a person.

The one truly good thing about this book is Edwards' knack for infusing her scenes with the flavours of the Caribbean. It permeates dialogue, food, mannerisms, etc., and makes the text richer. Unfortunately these things seemed to be more of a distraction than anything else at times, what with all the unanswered questions and unexplained circumstances vying for the reader's attention.

Overall A Cupboard Full of Coats was a frustrating book, and not one that I would recommend to fans of contemporary, emotionally charged fiction.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb4cf5be8) out of 5 stars Guilt and innocence Aug. 30 2011
By JCY 500 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In this impressive first novel, one of the titles on the 2011 Man Booker Prize longlist, Yvvette Edwards creates a stirring tale of a thirty year old woman consumed by feelings of guilt. She blames herself for the murder of her mother fourteen years ago. The novel presents the tale of Jinx; the narrator; her mother, the mother's violent boyfriend Berris, and Lemon, a close friend of the mother and her boyfriend. Edwards may be a first time novelist, but there is nothing of the novice in the telling of this story. She artfully employs the local argot favored by the three, natives of Montserrat. Effortlessly going back and forth in time, she presents herself as an adolescent, as well as an adult, and how guilt has prevented her from being the person she would prefer to be. Although some of the narration is a bit overdone, it does have a momentum that keeps the reader involved. There are some particularly harrowing, deeply disturbing scenes within the book, but they are all in keeping with the author's theme. Also, at the end, the narrator, and the reader, experience a feeling of deliverance. The next installment of the narrator's life is bound to be much happier and fulfilling.

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