I spent a year living in Tokyo and studying, which was one of the most interesting and difficult years so far. Therefore, I have a soft spot for everything Japanese, especially quirky books by Japanese authors (looking at you Mr. Murakami). I came across this one on NetGalley and requested for early access because the name, the cover, and the author intrigued me. In all honesty, it was a fairly odd, but at the same time wholesome read. So here are some of my thoughts about “Before the Coffee Gets Cold”. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the free eARC.
Title: Before the Coffee Gets Cold
Author: Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Time-travel
Number of Pages: 208
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ (3 stars)
Synopsis: In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.
In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.
But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold…
(Taken from Goodreads)
Overall Impression: I have to admit, the story is somewhat odd and whimsical, which really takes some getting used to. The getting used to lasts for about 100 pages though, which is half of the book, so not the best indication… The narrative is divided into four tales about different people who all decide to travel back into the past for certain reasons. These all tie in nicely and create a very specific ambience for which I just can’t find a fitting word. Quirky, mellow, wholesome – something similar, but all mushed up together.
I did get attached to the story and some of the characters towards the end of the book. It was incredibly wholesome and eye-watering at times. Overall, I really did enjoy the story, but not the presentation, translation or narration.
Likes: The story became more immersive half way through the book and towards the end, I thought that it was quite wholesome and slightly teared up even (although that happens fairly often, haha). I started caring for the characters in the second half of the book and got somewhat more invested into the story. I enjoyed the setting, the whimsicality of it, and the fact that the author didn’t try to explain the time-travel. It just kinda is there. There was no need for explanations where did it come from, why does it work and so on.
Dislikes: I thought that the translation was done quite poorly. I know first hand how difficult it can be translating from Japanese, especially prose, however, it felt like the translator went for a direct translation rather than putting some effort in. It got better eventually, but only half way through the book. That was one of the main jarring points for me and I think the book would be so much better in the original language. Also, I felt a lack of proofreading and stylistic editing. Going through the notes I’ve made whilst reading this, a lot of them are just about grammatical errors, poorly translated sentences, and weird wording. I’m quite bothered about these issues in a book, so maybe that’s why they’re so jarring for me in this one.
In conclusion: If you’re looking for something quirky and heart-warming, this book is for you. Just be prepared to overlook weird wording and some translation mishaps.
What books are you reading at the moment? Would you be interested in giving “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” a shot? Let me know in the comments.