This wasn’t my favourite of all four books (that was The Travelling Cat Chronicles 😍) but I did enjoy it a lot! It was the first of all four to be truly fantastical. Our main character is a young boy who has just lost his grandfather, the man who was raising him, and is closing up the bookshop he used to run. He is greeted by a talking cat who takes him through four labyrinths in order to save literature.
I enjoyed that the four labyrinths linked to the Greek minotaur and that they all had our protagonist fighting the antagonists with his pure love of books. But I did find that Natsukawa’s message was hitting us over the head just a bit. There was no real nuance in the message, instead it was very obvious that this man was using this as a vessel to complain about current reading trends. Do I disagree with his points? No! But it was still quite heavy handed.
I also felt a little called out at points 😅 we’re so focused on reading as much as we can (okay me, I’m focused on reading as much as I can) that we don’t take pleasure in slowly revisiting a past book, time and time again. I think I need to reread this short novel at some point to really get the idea into my head that it’s okay not to be reading new books all the time!
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 7 giving an average of 7.29 and a 4* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: death, kidnapping, grief, death of parent.
Overall, this is a sweet book with a very strong message. One that heavy readers will likely appreciate but that those who don’t devote their life to reading may find overtly over the top. If you’re reading this blog? You’re likely to be a heavy reader, so try this book out! It’s a short one and you might end up loving it anyways, like me!
I was so incredibly excited when I heard that the other books in the Before the Coffee Gets Cold series by Toshikazu Kawaguchi were going to be translated into English! I adored the first book and it was my absolute favourite read of 2019, I even thought about it replacing The Gift as my favourite book! That’s how much I loved it! So of course when NetGalley had the arc available I requested it and was lucky enough to get it!
Translated by Geoffrey Trousselot, Tales from the Café continues to follow the staff from Café Funiculi Funicula, some familiar faces, and some new to us. Yet again this book tells the tale of individuals who need to face their past in order to move on with their future, and leaves the reader, or at least me, asking what I would change if I could travel back in time.
This is quite a short book, so it’s hard to say much about it when trying to avoid spoilers, but yet again this book just filled my soul. I adored the atmosphere Kawaguchi created around the café, how he expanded on the lore of the café itself, as well as on the history of those who work there. On top of this beautiful exploration we are also introduced to new people and are absorbed into new tales. Throughout this book, whilst I was reading it I really felt a sense of peace, of beauty. I cried, as with the first one, when I finished reading it. It’s such a touching and well written plot. And I love the path that Kawaguchi went down for this book.
I’ve already bought myself a physical copy of this book (and it’s signed!) and I’m also already excited for the 3rd and final book to be published in English! I wish that this was a longer series, but if I can’t have that then fingers crossed more of Kawaguchi’s works will be translated into English. If not then you might find me learning Japanese!
The first book in this series, Before the Coffee Gets Cold, absolutely broke my heart and I adored it. I knew I needed more instantly. When I found out that there were 3 books already published in Japanese I immediately went to see if translations were going to be made! Thankfully they are doing so and Tales from the Cafe is the second book in this beautiful series!
Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5
Author: Toshikazu Kawaguchi, translated by Geoffrey Trousselot
In returning to Café Funiculi Funicula we get four more tales. Four more life stories which explore in even more depth the grief and regret these characters feel. I enjoyed that in comparison to each other and also to the first book, each individual had a different reason for sitting in the fated chair. Each of them had a different story leading up to this point, leading them to want to explore another time. Although the overall base themes of regret still run throughout each tale, as is expected when the subjects are wishing to play with time, the reasonings behind each feel unique and personal to them.
We do get to learn more about characters we have already met in the first book. I don’t wish to give too much away on this point, as I personally enjoyed discovering this for myself, but seeing some of our repeat characters get their turn in the chair as well as learning more about how their lives have progressed and developed was another aspect of the story I loved. It really adds to the overall feeling that the Funiculi Funicula presents to the reader and fleshes out the world around this impossible chair.
As with the first book the writing is very slow and intentional throughout. Also as with the first book, however, I read through this book so quickly and was loath to put it down when I had to! The pacing is very methodical and purposeful which leads one story into another. I have seen in another review someone stating that they did not like the repetitive nature of the rules each time. For me, personally, these repeated instructions add more texture to the world of the café, as I’m sure those words have been said within it many times. It also is part and parcel of the process. Just as in Doctor Who, the Doctor races around the TARDIS pressing buttons and flicking levers, just instead this method of time travel is more certain and informed. You know what to expect, as much as you can, and you know the rules laid out for you and the consequences if they aren’t followed.
I am incredibly excited for the third book to be translated! I already know that I will be so sad when there are no more books for me to read from this little series. I can’t wait to learn more about… well let’s just say the last character mentioned (I don’t want to give anything away!) as well as seeing the café family develop and how they react to new time travellers. I really do recommend picking this series up, there’s a reason that Before the Coffee Gets Cold was such a hit and I recommend diving into this beautiful and meditative world.
Thank you to NetGalley and Picador for a free eCopy of this book in return for an honest review.