Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold
In ‘Before the Coffee Gets Cold’ we visit a small café in Tokyo, however, this café offers its customers the opportunity to travel back in time. We meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer.
This novel is split into four chapters, one for each visitor wishing to travel through time. Chapter One gives us some context for the café and reveals the long list of rules you must follow to travel back in time. The rules are as follows.
- You only have one chance to travel back in time, after this you cannot do it again.
2.a. You have to be sat in a particular seat to travel back in time.
- This seat is occupied by a woman. You must wait for her to go to the bathroom to sit there. If you try to forcibly move her, she will curse you.
- You can only visit someone who has also visited the café because…
- Once you arrive in the past, you cannot move from your seat. If you do you will be brought to the future instantly.
- You must drink all of the coffee before it gets cold to return to the future. If you don’t you will become a ghost, trapped in that seat forever.
Chapter One is entitled ‘The Lovers,’ it follows businesswoman Fumiko who wants to travel to the past to find out why her partner suddenly left her to go to America. Chapter Two is ‘Husband and Wife.’ Fusagi is an elderly man with dementia, determined to travel back to give his wife, Kohtake, a letter. Kohtake ends up travelling to the past when Fusagi still remembers her to receive this letter. Chapter Three, ‘The Sisters’ follows Hirai, who wants to see her little sister, Kumi, one last time as she died in a car accident. Lastly, Chapter Four ‘Mother and Child’ follows café owner Kei, travelling to the future to see her unborn child that she knows she’ll never meet. Each chapter is unique in. its stories and the characters mentioned intermingle throughout.
Before I read ‘Before the Coffee Gets Cold’ I didn’t know that it was a novel adaptation of Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s stage-play of the same name. I got halfway through the book before finding this out. As a novel in itself, it’s okay. Not the best but, okay. There were some sentences and lines that didn’t work. However, reading this book with the mindset that it is originally a play makes it ten times more enjoyable. It explains some of the unsatisfactory ‘information dumps’ as I call them, as usually they would be shown on the stage. You can see the play coming to life before you, with all of the smoke and the café’s layout. So, I highly recommend you read this book with the mindset that it is a stage-play.
A problem I had with the book was with Kumi, Kei, Kazu and Kohtake. Since all their names began with a ‘K’ I kept getting the characters mixed up. However, this was a personal problem and not a reflection on Kawaguchi’s writing. Obviously, when viewing this as a play it would be easier to remember who is how as you would have a face to associate a name with.
This book is more like a small collection of short stories that are linked together rather than a cohesive novel. So, if you are looking for a novel, this probably isn’t going to be your cup of tea. However, if you enjoy short stories you might enjoy this book. Although the concept in itself if interesting and unique, I don’t think that it works as a piece of prose. I think I would’ve enjoyed ‘Before the Coffee Gets Cold’ if it was published in its script format with stage directions. I think this would’ve helped with ‘information dumping’ and not ideal sentence structures. Overall, I enjoyed ‘Before the Coffee Gets Cold’ but I wouldn’t rant and rave about it to my friends. (But I would 100% love to see the stage-play of this and think I would love that!)
Review by Megan.