A lyrical debut with an infusion of noir, “A Cupboard Full of Coats” (Amistad, $14.99) is a page-turning novel that tells the story of Jinx, a woman who is haunted by her mother’s murder and the role she played in it.
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by guilt, paralyzed by shame, Jinx has spent the years since her mother’s death alone, estranged from her husband, withdrawn from her son, and entrenched in a childhood home filled with fierce and violent memories.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 a debut novel that has garnered rave reviews when it was released in the UK in 2011 and is long-listed for the Man Booker Literary Prize.
“(The book) does not concern itself with the politics of power, or racism, or Black British history,” explained author Yvvette Edwards. “It is a novel that transcends race and culture, a story about the ‘human’ experience, one that any human being can identify with. My aim was to tell a riveting tale, to write the kind of book I love to read, one that maybe teaches the reader something they never knew before, that would be thought-provoking and impossible to put down. The color of my characters was never an issue. On auto-pilot, I crafted characters from an established community of Londoners who are generally under-represented in English literature, a community I am part of and know well.
“My mother was born in the Caribbean. As did many of my aunts and uncles, she came to England over 40 years ago. My generation has grown up in London eating Caribbean food and listening to Black music, yet I am, they are, Londoners. ‘A Cupboard Full of Coats’ is set in the London I’ve been fortunate to have spent my whole life in, one of the most diverse and truly multicultural cities in the world. My reduced cast of characters was drawn from my life and cultural experience. Lemon, in particular, has a number of my late grandfather’s attributes; he is articulate and has the ability to coolly tell a tale with the capacity to blow the socks off anyone listening. These characters are like members of my family. They speak in ways I recognize, like people whose roots were forged in the Caribbean who have made their permanent homes here in the UK. And, it is not color, but that difference, and their beautiful, dynamic eloquence, which singularly distinguishes this book.”