Before the Coffee Gets Cold – A book review

Before the Coffee Gets Cold – A book review

Yet another time travel book this year. If you had a chance to travel back (or forward) in time, whom would you meet and what will you ask them? Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi runs around this theme and let us get on to my book review right away.

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About Before the Coffee Gets Cold

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Book Name: Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Author: Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Genre: Fiction – Drama,

Characters: Kazu, Nagare and Kei, Fusagi and Kohtake

Setting: Tokyo, Japan

Plot Summary of Before the Coffee Gets Cold

The Funiculi Funicula is a basement cafe that has an ambient temperature whatever be the time of the day or season outside, despite no apparent air conditioning. Urban legend holds that its patrons can travel in time by following some rules and certain ritual.

But the catch is that, the trip would bear no impact to the present or future. And the opportunity to travel in time is also rare – only when a particular seat is vacant.

Four different patrons take their chances to time travel even though they know they cannot change their history. Did they make it back safely? What did they want to do so important that they risk getting stuck in a forever loop?

Read Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi to know more.

Book review of Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi consists of four interlinked short stories of four patrons of the cafe who want to travel in time, and seek someone special.

The premise is quite interesting and simple. But it works well because of the characters, despite the straight forward plot.

I loved the three café workers and their relationships with these patrons. While they are not traveling in time, they understand why it is important for these four to do so and they almost hold their breath until they return from their trip (or not.)

The book is quintessentially Japanese, or East Asian. When I learnt that Before the Coffee Gets Cold was initially written as a play, it made more sense about why everything was overexplained and had minimal descriptions.

What worked for me

  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a character driven book and if you are not one for them, this book might bore you soon enough.
  • I loved Kazu, Kei and Nagare and I really hope to seeing more of them in the next part of the book.
  • The book is hopeful and bittersweet. And if you are particularly emotional type, this book might overwhelm you (in a good way).

What may have been better

  • There are times when the writing gets sloppy and repetitive. I am not sure if it is an issue with the translation or the writing itself.

Bottom line

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi might be the next bittersweet book you might be looking for. If you are looking Asian or Japanese books to read, Before the Coffee Gets Cold should be next pick.

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Have you read Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi? How did it fare for you? What are your favorite Japanese literature that you read recently? Let us talk.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold – A book review

Joy luck club, The – A book review

I reading about China in The Joy luck club last year without knowing that I would be spending a month in Macau (a country that is still a part of Chinese government) soon after I finished it! Has this ever happened to you? So how did it fare on my chart? Let us find out.

The Joy Luck Club is culturally and historically rich, even though it plays a bit to the stereotypes or even went to setting those stereotypes in the first place. Have you read this one? #Diversereads #JoyLuckClub Click To Tweet

About the Joy luck club

elgeewrites Joy luck club, The - A book review Joy luck club

Book Name: The Joy luck club

Author: Amy Tan

Genre: Fiction –  HistoricalDrama

Characters: Jing-mei (June) Woo, Suyuan Woo, An-mei Hsu, Rose Hsu Jordan, Lindo Jong, Waverly Jong, Ying-ying St. Clair, and Lena St. Clair

Setting: San Francisco, The United States of America and China

Plot Summary of the Joy luck club

Following her mother’s death (Suyuan Woo), Jing-mei (June) Woo replaces her in the monthly Mah jong game. Suyuan and her friends started this tradition years ago when they moved into San Francisco as way to keep in touch with their Chinese culture and history. Through the years, the four mothers share their festivals, their daughters’ birthdays and achievements during the game.

While the mothers tried to preserve the culture, their daughters chase the American dream and lifestyle. They do not have the patience or interest in knowing their mother’s history and they scoff at the Chinese superstitions. Despite living under the same roof for years, the mothers and daughters live a life separated by their culture and life experiences. 

The harder their mothers are on them, the harder the daughters rebel in their own way, without realizing unwittingly they are following their mothers’ path. They also are quick to leave behind their Chinese culture just like their mothers had. 

During their game, Jing-mei finds out that just before her death Suyuan had traced her two other daughters that she had to leave behind during the World war II. And her mother’s friends urge her to take her mother’s journey to meet her long lost relatives who are still in China. Did she take that journey and find her sisters forms the rest of the story in The Joy luck club.

Book review of the Joy luck club

The Joy luck club is one of those classic cult hit when it was released in 1989. While it does feel a little bit dated, her major themes on mother- daughter relationship and generational gaps, especially between the first and second generational Chinese-Americans still holds good. 

The Joy luck club contains sixteen short stories narrated by four Chinese born mothers and their respective daughters who make it a point not to learn Chinese over half a century! While it was fun to try to read this structure, the truth was it was a little difficult to remember all the secondary characters. 

I loved how the daughters who scoffed at their mothers and their traditions in their childhood and well into their marriages, turn around as they mature and even get closer to them. And how their mothers in turn, learn to adapt into their new roles over the years. To be honest, The Joy luck club made me stop a moment and examine my own relationship with my mother. 

Things that worked for me

  • I loved the friendship/co-dependency between the mothers.
  • The stories about the mothers before coming to the USA were haunting and so historically rich. I loved them.

Things that didn’t work for me

  • Did the author somehow help the strict, cold Asian mothers and absentee Asian fathers stereotypes?  (UPDATE: upon reading other reviews -YES SHE DID, AND FACED A SEVERE BACKLASH)
  • I wish the book’s structure was a bit easier to follow through.

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Bottom-line

The Joy Luck Club is culturally and historically rich, even though it plays a bit to the stereotypes or even went to setting those stereotypes in the first place. If you are looking for a literary / historical fiction The Joy luck club by Amy Tan is a good choice. 

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Have you read The Joy Luck Club by AMy Tan? Have you visited any place that you read about? Can you suggest any book that speaks of mother-daughter relationships? Let us talk.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold – A book review

Convenience Store Woman – A book review

I recently read The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa and loved it, and I picked Convenience Store Woman on a whim hoping it will continue that streak. Let us get on with the review to know if it did, shall we?

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About the book

Convenience Store Woman Review cover

Book Name: Convenience Store Woman

Author: Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator)

Genre: Fiction – Drama

Characters: Keiko Furukura, Shiraha

Setting: Tokyo, Japan

The plot

Keiko Furukura, a 36 year old convenience store worker, doesn’t fit into the social constructs. She doesn’t have a husband or a boyfriend, kids nor a well paying job – in short an outcast. 

Keiko has been working at the same convenience store for eighteen years and has a routine that works for her. She has no interest in trying to fit in to the society but conveniently masks her oddities. She goes even to the extent of faking an illness which makes her too weak to work anywhere else. 

Her peaceful life goes into a toss when she meets another part time worker, Shiraha who is an outcast as well. They share a lot of commonalities, and they even get into a relationship charade to shut the voices of the society.

How did that turn out? You will have to read Convenience Store Woman to know more. 

My initial thoughts

I love reading character driven books and Convenience Store Woman does a great work at that. Keiko is a strong character who accepts and has no problem being the odd duck. She survives the pressure on woman to marry and birth a child at the right age without openly rebelling against the system. She is on the brink of a break down and yet manages to get through the motions of life. I adore the odd duck she was. 

Convenience Store Woman is a melancholic, relatable and yet so surreal.  It is quintessentially Japanese and is a great choice to read if you want to know more about the country’s culture and society. 

I liked reading about the operations of a convenience store and the role it plays in helping Keiko to mimic other humans. Maybe she is on the spectrum but the author never explicitly discusses that. I am glad I found Convenience Store Woman among the hundreds of recommendations on bookstagram.

Things that worked for me

  • Convenience Store Woman gives a great commentary on the culture and society of Japan.
  • The characters are etched to perfection. I could relate to them so deeply that it scares me.
  • I loved the poignant undertone all through the book.

Things that didn’t work for me

Even though the book is comical in bits, but I saw many reviews saying this book was hysterical or funny. It wasn’t. Amusing maybe. Funny – no!

Bottom-line

If you love character driven books and translated works, Convenience Store Woman is a great choice. If you liked books like Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time, this is for you!

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Do you read translated works? What was the last translated book that you read? What is your favorite and I am calling for more recommendations. Let us talk.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold – A book review

Travelling Cat Chronicles, The – A book review

Cats scare me terribly! I have nightmares about them. I might have even walked around an entire block to avoid getting anywhere near them (more than once).

Naturally, I was skeptical about picking The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, thanks to a friend’s persistent recommendation. Read on to find how that turned out for me.

I was fairly skeptical about #TheTravellingCatChronicles by Hiro Arikawa when I picked it up. Read my #review to find how it fared for me. turned out for me. #JapaneseLiterature #JanuaryinJapan #SouthEastAsianLit Click To Tweet

About the book

Travelling Cat Chronicles

Book Name: The Travelling Cat Chronicles

Author: Hiro Arikawa, Philip Gabriel (Translator)

Genre: Fiction – Drama

Characters: Satoru, Nana, Kozuke, Yoshimine, Sugi and Chikako, Noriko

Setting: Tokyo, Japan

The plot

Satoru finds a feral cat with a crooked tail resting on his silver van and begins feeding it, regularly. They settle into an understanding that he would get to pet the cat for food. But then, the cat meets with an accident and it is Satoru that nurses him back. One thing leads to another, he adopts the cat and names him Nana, much to the indignation of the cat! 

Nana and Satoru settle into a comfortable companionship. After a few years, Satoru decides to give away Nana and they embark on a journey to find a suitable home among his friends. Read The Travelling Cat Chronicles to join the duo on their travel through Japan and Satoru’s childhood memories!

My initial thoughts

I LOVED THIS BOOK – there I said it! It might made me laugh. Had me heartbroken. Once I even got frowned upon for letting out a chuckle while on the treadmill at the gym. Despite having guessed the climax, I was not prepared for it. I didn’t want the book to end but I am glad it ended the way it did. 

Our cat Nana, is feisty, snarky and funny as a cat can be (sorry, Garfield). There are multiple POVs but I obviously, loved Nana’s version the best. His overconfident attitude and voice was how I imagined how pets to be like. Great work with the translation. I was able to feel how South East Asian the story was, yet could relate to it, cat lover or not.

Things that worked for me

  • The easy writing style hooked me right from the beginning.
  • It has a perfect balance between funny and heart breaking. 
  • The book didn’t feel like a translated work at all, and kudos to the translator! 

Things that didn’t work for me

  • The plot is pretty predictable and don’t look for anything “intense”.

Bottom-line

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a feel good book, with a bittersweet ending. Be prepared to cry, laugh and snicker throughout!

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Have you read this one? Have you read any other pet related books? If so which one would you recommend? Let us talk.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold – A book review

Book review: Ghachar Ghochar

Do you know how we all hear great things about some books and when we get our hands on them, they completely disappoint us and make us question our tastes? Well, that did not happen with Ghachar Ghochar.

I heard so many good things about this one and then (surprisingly?) I found it was all that and more. And I am more than happy to recommend a translated work from my part of the world. So here we go.

About the book

Ghachar Ghochar

Book Name: Ghachar Ghochar

Author: Vivek Shanbhag

Genre: Fiction – Drama, Literary, Translated work

Characters: The unnamed narrator, Anita, Malati, Appa, Amma and Chikappa

Setting: Karnataka, India

The plot

Ghachar Ghochar begins with the young narrator sitting at the Coffee House mulling over his life. He is particularly fond of a witty waiter Vincent with whom he shares the happenings of his household. His family consists of his older parents, elder sister Malati, his paternal Uncle and his newly wedded wife Anita.

Do you know how we all hear great things about a book and when we get our hands on it, it disappoints us and makes us question our taste? Well, that did not happen with #GhacharGhochar #AsianLiterature #IndianLit Click To Tweet

Their living situation, though a common practice among Asians, is more out of convenience and habit rather than out of love. But they were not always like this. Until a few years ago the family was close knitted. Though not affluent they shared the smallest joys with each other and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. 

When the father of the narrator (Appa) loses his employment, his uncle (Chikappa) had to start his own business venture to support of the family. This lead an ascent in their economic status which changes the family dynamics. Each member makes their choices, but how often they turn out to be right? 

My initial thoughts

Ghachar Ghochar means entangled and the title fits perfectly to the story. Aren’t we all tangled with the chaotic mess that our loved ones are? Even though the book is set in India, I am sure the plot will be relatable across the world.

I loved the characters that were real and raw. The unnamed narrator could be anyone among us and that is what makes Ghachar Ghochar personal and beautiful. If you love open ended plots, you are in for a treat!

Things that worked for me

  • I loved that every character has a grayer shade.
  • I think the simple narration and elegant writing style won me. 
  • The translator did a great job to retain the author’s style of writing.

Things that didn’t work for me

  • As much as I loved reading Ghachar Ghochar, I thought it was too short (is that even a negative thing?)
  • Ghachar Ghochar is not a plot oriented novella, so if you expect a lot of twists and turns you might be disappointed.

Bottom-line

Ghachar Ghochar definitely is one of the top picks on my Asian reads ever. I am gonna look out for more translated works in the future. 

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Do you like translated works? How often do they satisfy you? Which is your favorite translated reads? Let us talk.