Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Café by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (translated by Geoffrey Trousselot)

Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Café is the second book set in the Funiculi Funicula time-travelling cafe. (Funiculi Funicula, by the way, is named after a song – this song – not sure why but I like it.) This book follows the format of its predecessor, Before the Coffee Gets Cold: 4 short stories that weave together to create a complete narrative.

before the coffee gets cold tales from the cafe Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Opening sentence: Gohtaro Chiba had been lying to his daughter for twenty-two years.

From stage to book

Translated from its native Japanese, author Toshikazu Kawaguchi originally wrote Before the Coffee Gets Cold as a play for the theatre and after its success on stage, it was converted into novels. You can really feel that stage setting and direction through the book. This is nice as it feels very contained and intense, but on the flip side there seems to be a lot of repetition, which you might not notice as much watching it, but as a reader, it does make you feel like the author is very much hammering his point home.

Faces old and new

Familiar characters that we met in the first book pop up here, such as the cafe owner Nagare and waitress Kazu, who we learn a lot more about, which was lovely. We also, interestingly discover the origins of the mysterious woman who reads her book all day, every day in the cafe…

I like how Tales from the Café develops the character stories from the first book, while seamlessly dropping in the new tales of the people who visit the cafe to travel to the past (or future) and lay their own demons to rest.

He stepped into the cafe where, supposedly, you could travel back in time.

I was emotionally taken in by this book. The power of truly understanding your feelings and allowing yourself to be happy are explored here. Guilt and grief are such heavy emotions and it looks at how the smallest moment or conversation can alter a person’s path.

Tales from the Café can be read as a stand-alone, but I think you would get far more from it by reading Before the Coffee Gets Cold first. On reflection, while it was interesting to learn more about the key characters and see how the story developed, I think I enjoyed book one slightly more as a reading experience BUT this was an emotional read with power. A wonderful sequel.

  • Published by Picador September 2020 (Published in Japanese 2017);
  • 224 pages;
  • My rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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