A Cupboard Full Of Coats
Also longlisted for this years Booker, A Cupboard Full Of Coats brings us another character haunted by the guilt of a small past action which turned out to have massive consequences. Jinx opens the door to find Lemon on her doorstep, the friend of her mothers partner Berris, neither of whom she has seen since she was sixteen. Lemon has come to inform her that he has seen Berris who is now "out" having served 14 years for the murder of Jinx's mother, something that Jinx holds herself accountable for.
A Cupboard Full Of Coats is really your average domestic violence story of a single mum and daughter who were doing just fine until Berris came along and ruined everything. Like A Sense Of An Ending the novel is more about the guilt people carry following the unforeseen major repercussions of a small deliberate piece of spite than the actions of Berris himself. Jinx like her name has experienced something of a cursed life since, unable to make relationships last and unable to bond with her son. She does better with dead people and works as an embalmer.
I enjoyed the descriptive prose which evoked the tastes and smells of Afro-Caribbean culture, it was enough to make you hungry. I also liked the originality of how and why a swimming costume caused a divorce. It was humorous. Lemon's character and that of Jinx's school friend Samantha Adebayo, were both well drawn and brought real spark into the novel.
But, I felt like the ending was too neat, Jinx having dispensed of her guilt is now able to begin repairing her relationships, just like that. And, I didn't feel that the story despite its Afro-Caribbean flavour was really original enough to stand apart from many other novels on the same issue. Not a strong contender I'm afraid, not when A Sense Of An Ending which covers the same kind of psychological issues outclasses it on several levels. 7/10