2011 Long List – A Cupboard Full of Coats – Yvvette Edwards

I’ve been on holiday for a few weeks, hence no postings, but did finish this novel just after I departed and wondered if it would grow on me over that time.
I personally don’t like to be too critical of first time novelists as it would be a thankless task to germinate an idea all the way through the process to print, however it didn’t stop me having a crack at A.D. Miller. This time around I’ll be a little gentler, and deservedly so.
The back dust jacket of my edition states:
Fourteen years ago Jinx’s mother was brutally murdered in their East London home. Since the tragedy Jinx’s life has been poisoned by the part she played; paralysed by guilt, she has cut herself off from her husband and young son. Then Lemon turns up on her doorstep. An old friend of her mother’s, he wants to revisit events leading up to that terrible night.
We then enter into storytelling mode, flash backs, memories of childhood etc.
A novel that is craftily put together but one that infuriated me no end. The main character Jinx, tells the story and a more selfish, passionately self-absorbed character I don’t think I’ve ever met. I spent page after page boiling at her, and wondering how such a character could become married, let alone pregnant. Why such a person’s story needed to be told? And how could we care about someone who is such a victim of all that happens in her world?
All of this infuriation could well be part of the master plot as I presume people like this would exist in the real world, however Jinx was so abhorrent to me I found it difficult to become emotionally attached to her plight in any way.
Unfortunately this novel also has a number of inexplicable holes:
1)      Why would Lemon believe a known cheat, liar and manipulator over his own wife?
2)      Why does Edwards put a great passage about running and the cathartic properties of such early on in the novel but not revisit it later?
3)      Why the numerous references to Mills and Boon? I must admit I haven’t read any of their books so this novel may well be a play on the older romantic lead from such books.
4)      Why would Jinx let Lemon into her house in the first place?
5)      What changed in Jinx’s character that much to break down her marriage as she was surely this way when she met her husband?
6)      What is it with the coats in the title? What do they represent and why such scant references?
7)      Why such a pitiful formulaic ending?
On the positive side I have thought about this book a number of times over the last few weeks and it wasn’t a difficult read and I did finish it (sometimes that is an achievement). A solid first novel in a nutshell, but it was never worthy of the shortlist.
I’ll post a review of the other book I finished whilst on my sojourn, “On Canaan’s Side” shortly.
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