Imagine you could go back in time but had to return before your coffee gets cold. Fascinating concept.
Such a charming idea, so simple and engaging. Reminds me of the children's television programme Mister Benn, where a man has a short time travel adventure in a fancy-dress shop, only to return to the present when the shopkeeper arrives. In this book though, the people to not go back to the times of gladiators but to their own recent past.
The story is set in a tiny basement cafe where people go for coffee and a spot of supernatural therapy. There are rigid rules for this time travel, which to many people makes the trip not worth the effort. For example, there is a particular chair you have to sit in and not move from and, more significantly, the present will always remain the same. So no matter what anyone does in the revisited past, nothing with change.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold looks at human nature and the little things that remain unsaid. Events may not change but the frame of mind almost certainly will. The time travel is like hypnoses or a drug, the only thing that changes is perception.
There are about half a dozen characters in the featured coffee shop, all with confusing Japanese names that include the letters kay or zed in their names, or sometimes both - but that is a failing due to my ignorance of Japanese. Fortunately, some of the characters are filled out enough to be distinguished from the others.
The telling of each of their stories is like a fable, both in the content and the manner in which it is told, making this book a little treasure. The man with dementia who now fails to recognise his wife is very sad.
A delightful and profound novel.
Published by Pan MacMillan Picador on 19 September 2019. Advanced review copy supplied by the publisher.
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