Yvvette Edwards - A Cupboard Full Of Coats

Cupboard Full Of Coats - Yvvette Edwards, Yvette Edwards

Meet Jinx, a young woman unable to love. We find her 14 years after her mother was murdered in their London house, where she still lives an organised and restrained life. She would’ve probably lived there like that until her own guilt and repressed feelings consumed her completely, if it wasn’t for Lemon who appeared on her doorstop, uninvited, looking to exhume what was buried deep underground.

Despite her coldness and apparent cruelty, it is hard not to root for Jinx from the very first page. Rarely do I find myself caring so deeply for a fictional character.

Lemon and Jinx take us on an emotional journey spiced up with Caribbean flavour during which we slowly discover the story behind Jinx’s reserve.  Over one weekend Lemon performs vivisection on Jinx’s feelings and brings to light the secrets, motives and careless actions that eventually led to the tragedy. The narration is raw and brutal but also very skilful when switching between past and present.

A Cupboard Full Of Coats asks how much responsibility we should take for our actions and when to accept that things were out of our hands. It tells us that sometimes, although we like believe we are the principal players in the story of our lives, certain events are doomed to happen. It has less to do with fate – the way the Greeks saw it – and more to do with specific flaws in our characters that make us repeat the same mistake over and over again.

The book’s biggest strength is the complexity of its characters. Edwards manoeuvres swiftly between stereotypes and clichés and delivers prose that is beautifully structured, emotionally urgent, quite gut-wrenching and finally cathartic.  It is easy to get drawn in, involved with the characters and hope for their redemption. I found myself crying on the train over the last few pages; a very embarrassing experience for me, as I don’t normally allow myself to get emotional. Just like Jinx, I was caught off guard.

Yvvette Edwards has already been compared to Monica Ali, and even Zadie Smith. Whereas these comparisons are not entirely unfounded, Edwards focuses less on immigrant perspective and more on human experience. It’s a fresh voice on the scene and one to be reckoned with.

(Ah, if only it didn't have a headless woman on the cover!)