Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Ewards

Longlisted for this year's Man Booker Prize, A Cupboard Full of Coats is a beautifully written debut novel from British author Yvvette Edwards. From the first page I was hooked by Ewards's clear and emotive prose:

He just knocked, that was all, knocked the front door and waited, like he had just come back with the paper from the corner shop, and the fourteen years since he last stood there, the fourteen years since the night I killed my mother, hadn't really happened at all.
                                                                A Cupboard Full of Coats p. 1

The story is told by Jinx, a young woman, who over the course of a weekend attempts to heal from violent events of her childhood that culminated in the death of her mother, and have long since caused her to be emotionally shut off from the whole world including her own son.

This is a story about domestic violence and the long, inter-generational shadow it casts.  Some of the plot elements left me feeling a bit uncomfortable, I daresay that is not necessarily a bad thing.  The elements of the plot that worked best for me were the more symbolic elements. Like a number of recent novels it seems to me, the consumption of food, features here, and it is done very well.  Food, from the characters' Caribbean roots, is used as a comforting link to the past and a way of showing love.  Clothing on the other hand, in particular, the cupboard full of coats of the title, represents for Jinx, the most tragic aspects of her mother's life.

The real hero of the novel is the writing itself.  Ewards's prose shimmers with life; it is economical yet filled with warmth, which is no small feat given the subject matter of the novel.  And while elements of the story bothered me, so I couldn't say I fully enjoyed it, I will be lining up to read whatever she writes next because the writing itself is such standout joy.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds interesting...will put it on my list to read for sure!


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