A Cupboard Full of Coats: A Novel by Yvvette Edwards
Release date: 2012 / 336 pages
Synopsis(from Amazon):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by guilt, paralyzed by shame, Jinx has spent the years since her mother’s death alone, estranged from her husband, withdrawn from her son, and entrenched in a childhood home filled with fierce and violent memories.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.
Review: A reader does not need to be particularly astute to anticipate a rough ride ahead after reading the following lines found on page one of A Cupboard Full of Coats:
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.
Another hint might be that Edwards’ debut novel was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize — a prize often awarded to stunningly dark fiction. On the other hand, Man Booker nominees also share the distinction of luminous writing and a sense of redemption at the end — both of which are exhibited in Edwards’ masterfully written novel:
Instantly, the room was filled with the aroma of soup beginnings, the earliest stage when all the ingredients still retained their own fresh and heightened smells, an aroma that was a group or sequence of different scents that assailed individually, till the fragrant thyme finally rose to dominate.
One of the great strengths of this novel, beyond the prose, is Edwards’ ability to create suspense. Lemon, the man who arrives at the protagonist’s doorstep fourteen years after the death of her mother, also feels responsible for the murder — however, the reader must wait until the end to discover whether either are truly to blame. Edwards tells the events leading up to the climax through the voices of both Lemon and Jinx — carefully crafting each to be unique and resonant, with glorious echoes of Zora Neale Hurston’s ear for dialect and instinct for spinning a tale that is difficult to walk away from, even at its most horrific, until the storyteller releases the reader.
However, despite a passing resemblance to Hurston, Edwards’ voice is truly singular and Jinx, Lemon and the woman they both believed they killed are inimitable. The longed for redemption — by the characters as well as the reader — is both satisfying and authentic to the very last lines. While both characters are changed or at least influenced by the reunion, their personalities remain intact and distinct.
Beyond the luminous prose and fully dimensional characters, Edwards deftly explores difficult issues of race, beauty, gender, objectification and how they coalesce to create the identity we present to the world as well as ourselves.
Interested in experiencing this novel yourself? Drop me a comment below and I’ll choose a winner soon!
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