Have you ever wanted a 'do-ever'? Ever wondered 'What if I had just...?' You are not alone. I know I have thought it countless times, but when you really stop and think about it, what does that say about the way we live our every day lives? Do we live 'better' because we know we cannot change things? I'm not sure we do - and this is what is explored in Toshikazu Kowaguchi's novel Before the Coffee Gets Cold.
What a wonderful treat of a book this is and the fact that it was selected as a book club pick of the month was a bonus. I'm a huge fan of Japanese literature and this charming Tokyo based fable is beautifully paced and one which has stayed with me since I read it earlier in the year (further proof of how behind I am with my reviews!) As it is #asianreadathon month I thought it appropriate to review it now before another opportunity passes me by. This slender and thought-provoking novel is set in a tiny atmospheric backstreet cafe, if you didn't know it was there you could easily walk on by. However, this cafe has acquired a reputation for being somewhat magical due to its ability to send its patrons back to the past. If you could travel to a point in the past would you? I think many of us can think of a situation where we would have made a different decision, however, this is not the opportunity for a 're-do' as you are unable to change future outcomes. Rather it is an opportunity to spend time with whomever you wish and perhaps say things you had meant to at the time - but again nothing will change the outcome. There are strict rules you must follow for time travel to happen but the most important rule of all is that you must return before the coffee gets cold. Failure to do so means you will live life as a 'ghost', a mere shade of your former self - and remain stuck in the cafe in a kind of repetitive limbo. This happened to one patron who now sits in the cafe in the same seat only leaving to use the restroom - it is at this point that other patrons can sit in the seat, the coffee is poured and they are transported back to their chosen time. I loved the ceremonial feel of the coffee being poured from a particular pot by a particular person - the simple beauty of this tradition and the methodical way in which it is carried out is so vivid in my mind, even now. The novel is divided into four sections, with a different character travelling back in time in each section. Each has their own reason for travelling back and, as a reader, you cannot help but hope that there is some small way they can alter the outcome or say the thing they had wanted to. This novel has left me with so many thoughts. What would I change? What would I have said? Would I be disciplined enough to leave the situation and return before the coffee gets cold or would I get stuck living the life of the 'ghost' who sits in the same seat day after day turning the pages of the same book? A beautifully told fable which will leave you with a smile and maybe a thought of how you should approach your life moving forward as there are no do-overs. If you haven't read Japanese fiction before this would be a great place to start.
A copy of this ebook was gifted to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Yamaguchi translated by Geoffrey Trousselot
Format: Paperback / eBook
Publish by: Pan Macmillan
UK Publication date: September 2019