I love Japanese literature and the ones I enjoy the most always have something existential about them.
I read the first Before the Coffee Gets Cold a couple of years ago and absolutely adored it.
This is the second in the series and there is also a subsequent book called Before Your Memory Fades which, like this book, was published in 2022.
To set the scene, there is a cafe in the back streets of Tokyo where people can travel back in time – or forward if they wish to.
They do so by sitting in a specific seat in this tiny backstreet establishment and drinking a cup of specially poured coffee. There are rules though: going back to the past cannot change the present, they can only meet someone who has been in the cafe before, if they get up from the seat they are immediately transported back to the present and they must return before their coffee gets cold or they will become a ghost destined to sit at that same table forever.
I thought the first book, published in 2015, was absolutely beautiful. In it there were a number of stories about people who had travelled back in time and their reasons for doing so.
If I worried that this follow up was going to be much of the same, I was mistaken. Yes we do follow the stories of four people heading back in time but entwined within those interlinked tales is more about the members of staff in the cafe, their stories and a little about how the process works.
We also discover more about the ‘ghost’ who occupies the key seat most of the time, vacating it only once a day and giving someone else the chance to make their own wondrous journey.
This is a book about hope and love, about regrets and guilt and about things left unsaid. I find it almost haunting in its lyricism with characters that are lovingly drawn so you can understand their motivations.
As a follow-up to a very successful book this works because it is similar enough and yet different enough to be loved by those who loved the first visit to Cafe Funniculi Funnicula as well as working as a stand alone for those who have not tasted the original.
There is depth and emotion and it is one of those books that stays with you when you’ve read the final page. I love it and would thoroughly recommend it.