For fourteen years Jinx has been haunted by the brutal murder of her mother. Crushed by the weight of loss and guilt, she is unable to move on from the memories of her childhood that are poisoning her life and all her relationships. The sudden arrival of Lemon, an old friend of her mother’s, changes everything. He wants to talk about that night and he won t leave until she’s shared her story her whole story. Over the course of one searing weekend they strip away the layers of the past to lay bare a family drama full of jealousy and tragic betrayal. Fuelled by Lemon’s sumptuous cooking and intoxicating story-telling the intensity mounts and dark secrets are uncovered. But as Jinx’s life threatens to fall apart for a second time, she finally begins to believe that redemption may be within her grasp. Blending true East London spirit with a heady Caribbean spice, Edwards has crafted a novel of breathtaking elegance, announcing a fierce new talent in British fiction.
A Cupboard Full of Coats was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2011 (in fact it’s the fourth from that year’s list I have read- a rare thing for me), and I can see why critics might like it. It has a rather distinctive voice, a bit British, a bit Caribbean, a bit lost.
It is interesting how Jinx’s life seems to parallel her situation. Even before the murder of her mother Jinx was finding it hard to find her place in the world. Her friend was growing up, but leaving Jinx behind. Then her mother meets a new man, her first relationship since Jinx’s father died when Jinx was a young child. Jinx doesn’t want everything to change- she doesn’t try to know or like her mother’s new partner, she doesn’t try to meet her friend halfway.
In a lot of ways the older Jinx is still a child. She still has a rather childish reaction to what happened. Her relationship with Lemon, and even to an extent with her son, are rather selfish and nieve.
At first I did find A Cupboard Full of Coats a little difficult to get into. I wanted to know what happened to Jinx’s Mum, but it took a long time for that story to get started, and once it did it was slow to really get going.
I liked it, in the end (except maybe the very end) but it was a bit of a struggle to get there at times.
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