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Book Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Pavithra Prabhu Book Review Before the Coffee Gets Cold Toshikazu Kawaguchi

You arrive at a quiet street with a small sign that points to a basement cafe, Cafe Funiculi Funicula - a coffee place stuck in a bygone era. As soon as you make yourself comfortable, you notice an old fan that cools the basement; an old man diligently taking notes from a magazine; and a woman wearing short sleeves sitting in the farthest corner.

Pavithra Prabhu Book Review Before the Coffee Gets Cold Toshikazu Kawaguchi

You came to this cafe with one goal in mind - time travel. You walk up to the expressionless waitress at the counter and express your earnest need to go back in time (for reasons of your own). Without much surprise, the waitress explains the rules of travelling back in time:

  1. The only people you can visit while you are in the past are those who have visited the cafe.

  2. There's nothing you can do in the past that will change the present.

  3. Only one particular seat can take you to the past.

  4. You must return to the present before your coffee gets cold.

This is just the gist of the plot of Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi.

About the Author Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Before publishing his international bestseller, Kawaguchi wrote and produced plays such as COUPLE, Sunset Song, and Family Time. Then came his award-winning play, Before the Coffee Gets Cold, which subsequently became his debut novel. It was later adapted as a screenplay titled, Cafe Funiculi Funcicula, in Japan.

A Novel Take on Time Travel

The author lays down strict rules of time travel and demands our attention on the book's central theme - what does one gain by going back in time or travelling to the future, if we cannot change it? To answer that question, the storyline gently carries you through four heartbreaks: The Lovers; Husband and Wife; The Sisters; and Mother and Child. Each story has its emotional weight - slowly unravelling the central idea as you read.

The Raincoat Effect

Before the Coffee Gets Cold Toshikazu Kawaguchi Book Review Pavithra Prabhu

Much like the quote from the movie Paterson, reading any translated work will never give you the effect of the original.

The nuances, colloquialisms, metaphors, and other literary devices are lost in translation.

Although the writing style is simple and easy to follow, as a reader, you might sense you are missing something important and end up wishing you knew Japanese.

Succinctly Put... Is It Worth Reading?

I am yet to read the sequels of the series:

But as a reader, it's obvious to wonder if it's worth the commitment. I would say, go ahead and give it a try. The book is easy to read, emotional, feel-good, and a unique take on how we view ourselves - the present, the past, and the future. It's a wonderful gift in case you're looking to give someone a book.

Lastly, would you travel back in time? Comment below.


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