Rating: 3.5 stars
I thought the concept of this novel was amazing, and unlike anything I have read before. I had seen some amazing reviews and recommendations for this, and I think I let the hype lead my expectations too far, and so the novel fell a little short for me.
It is a short novel, but it provides a really interesting concept of time travel. When sat in a specific seat in a little cafe, a person has the ability to travel backwards in time to a time of their choosing. They cannot leave the cafe, and so can only meet people that have been there, and they only have as long as it takes for their coffee to turn cold. Most importantly, nothing that is said or done in the past has the ability to change the present. This presents some interesting challenges for the people wishing to travel, and is central to the plot.
However, there were just a couple of aspects that let me down. I’m not sure how much of it is due to it being a translated fiction, or whether it the more traditional/typical Japanese style, but I found the writing to involve a large amount of telling, and very little showing. There wasn’t a lot of description, and I didn’t feel as though you learnt much about the characters personally. I wanted to connect more with the characters, to really understand their reasoning for travelling to visit someone in the past, but I didn’t feel this. I also found it a little repetitive – in each story it recapped the rules and effects of the coffee, which although new to each character, were well-known to the reader. I would also have liked it to be longer, as I really liked the waitress and owners of the cafe and wanted to learn more about them.
I really enjoyed learning a bit about some aspects of Japanese culture, as I know very little about Japan and its customs. It is my first translated fiction and I am hoping to continue to diversify the authors and subjects that I read about. I am glad I read it, and I thought it was a really interesting novel and I loved the exploration of time travel. I will look out for further works by Toshikazu Kawaguchi and am hoping to read more translated fiction in the future.
Have you read this one? What did you think?