A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvette Edwards

11th Oct 2011


It’s a great read. Jinx rues her name, which she feels has cast the whole of her life into that of an unfortunate. She lives in the house her mother was killed in when she was teenager in East London. This event transformed and shaped her life, leaving her with a huge burden of guilt and anger.

When Lemon, an old friend of her mother’s, arrives at Jinx’s door, he rakes up the past, bringing amazing cooking and fresh perspectives that could change everything. The story gradually unfolds, teasing you with new information without giving away the whole, keeping you turning the pages.

In spite of its dark subject matter, Edwards’ sumptuous descriptions of Caribbean foods and flavours, literally pepper the book throughout, making it a delight to read. Her writing conveys the immediacy of each moment, allowing your imagination to form a complete picture of the details – from slicked back, tightly plaited hair, to lipsmacking jerk chicken, to the cupboard full of beautiful coats referred to in the book’s title.

It’s a novel of personal redemption and culpability, exploring how we blame others and take blame onto ourselves for events that perhaps are inevitable, a novel that explores the notion of forgiving others and how forgiving yourself can free you to live a fuller and more wholesome life.

It’s worth noting that none of the characters are white, and yet this is not a polemical story about race, but about a family and a community – colour is not an issue, and this also added to my enjoyment of the story.

It’s not been written to make any kind of political or socio-economic statement, but purely for the sake of telling a good tale. And personally, that’s what I think makes the best books.

A Cupboard Full of Coats is published by Oneworld, and is available now in paperback for £6.48 and for Kindle at £4.78.

Rating: 4/5.  Gorgeous descriptions, a compelling story, and a satisfactory resolution make this an easy but pleasurable read.

Other recommended reading: For more good food descriptions in a story, try Fall Asleep Forgetting by Georgeann Packard. Of course, the classic modern novel on non-white families in London is White Teeth by Zadie Smith – but maybe consider reading her later story, On Beauty.

Johanna Derry