I have been involved in book groups on and off for a few decades now. (Gosh I’m old!) This year, I joined one through my local bookshop which had moved their meetings to Zoom.
Book groups are great; book tragics sit around and discuss books, often there is wine and cheese involved, and inevitably you read books that you’d never dream of picking up. Before the coffee gets cold is one such book. Is it the best book I’ve ever read? Probably not. Am I glad I read it? Absolutely.
Written by Japanese author Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Before the coffee gets cold explores the age-old question, “What if…?”. In a tiny café in a back alley of Tokyo, answers are possible through time travel when certain conditions are met, including sitting in a particular seat and not leaving the café.
Four stories are gently told, and the structure reminds me of Neil Simon’s plays, Plaza Suite and California Suite, where the setting is the cohesive thread linking the self-contained stories. Unlike these plays, however, there is also a small, eclectic mix of characters that provide an overall narrative arc.
Time travel is always thought-provoking, and Before the coffee gets cold is a personal encounter with the past, rather than a random time in history. I couldn’t help but ponder my own life – which part would I like to revisit? Who would I like to say goodbye to, or hello to, or reconnect with? But the biggest question that kept recurring was – would I really want to go back in time? The limitations imposed in the book would probably be a deal-breaker for me, as I think I’d prefer to visit someone else’s history rather than my own. (Perhaps that explains my passion for historical fiction, and post-modern TV series such as Lost in Austen…)
The human experience has moments of irrepressible joy, unspeakable loss and gnawing regret. Exploring these through the eyes of different characters in Before the coffee gets cold was heartwarming, heartbreaking, and satisfying, enjoyed best with a good, hot cup of tea. (Not a coffee drinker, so couldn’t make an honest coffee reference…)
Please find here an assorted mix of what I tend to read - new books, old books, birthday gifts, gifts to myself, books from my to-be-read pile, Book Group books, fiction, non-fiction, memoirs - basically a weird assortment of goodies!
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