A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards

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A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A fierce book about love, regret, alienation and redemption. Utterly compelling and deserving of its Booker longlisting. We loved it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 308 Date: October 2011
Publisher: Oneworld
ISBN: 1851688382

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He just knocked, that was all, knocked and the front door and waited, like the fourteen years since I'd killed my mother hadn't happened...

Jinx is cold and she knows it. She cleans obsessively - a largely pointless task, since there is little mess to clean since her husband and young son, tired of her frigidity, moved out. She cooks beautifully balanced meals that look aesthetic on the plate. But her food offers sustenance, not comfort. In fact, Jinx feels most at home amongst the dead people she works with as a funeral home cosmetologist.

And then, one day, Lemon comes to call. A figure from a time and a catastrophic event that Jinx would rather forget, Lemon is intent on reliving it all. Fourteen years ago, Jinx's mother was murdered by her abusive boyfriend and this tragedy was the trigger that began her alienation. Lemon has a painful question: Berris held the knife, but he and Jinx both played a part. How much is each to blame for her mother's death? In an intense weekend fuelled by memories, alcohol and the Caribbean food of Jinx's childhood, the two edge closer to some answers...

Jinx is hard to like but Lemon sweeps back into her life, engaging the reader in her story immediately. He is open and friendly and charismatic and intent on tying Jinx back in to her Caribbean heritage. He cooks for her. He plaits her hair. Massages her feet. And the vitality of his presence unlocks painful memories of rejection for Jinx Why won't anyone love me? she cries. And from this point on, I found myself rooting for this woman unable to break free from a frozen moment of crisis, paralysed by guilt and regret and resentment.

Lemon's food, vividly and mouthwateringly described, sits in contrast to Jinx's sterility but it gradually draws her in, makes her vulnerable. And this enables her to begin to pull the threads of the past together. It's painful in the extreme, but also a necessary catharsis.

A Cupboard Full of Coats is a fierce book, painfully honest and beautifully written, with credible characters and evocative prose. The denouement is unsurprising but there are a good few unexpected twists along the way. An impressive debut, and worthy of its Booker longlisting for sure.

My thanks to the good people at Oneworld for sending the book.

You might also enjoy This Perfect World by Suzanne Bugler, which is also an intense story in which a woman's brittle world begins to disintegrate when the past comes back to haunt her.

Buy A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards at Amazon.com.

Booklists.jpg A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards is in the Man Booker Prize 2011.


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