Would you go back in time even if you knew it wouldn’t change the present? Toshikazu Kawaguchi poses this very question to his characters and readers in the play-turned-novel, Before the Coffee Gets Cold. Poignant and thought provoking, this debut work is a refreshing tale of time travel.

Set inside Funiculi Funicula, a 100-year-old Japanese café infamous for its time-travelling coffee, Kawaguchi’s story follows four customers as they attempt to revisit, relive and reshape moments that changed their lives forever. However, the journey back (or forth) isn’t without caveats: customers must sit in a specific seat, they must stay inside the café and they must return to the present while the coffee is still warm.

While not necessarily a groundbreaking plot, Kawaguchi’s exploration of time travel feels brand new. Translated from Japanese to English by Australian Geoffrey Trousselot, the simple yet charming prose allows the characters and their journeys to shine through, ultimately revealing the very best and worst of the human condition. And, in a unique – albeit painful – twist, the time travellers have no effect on their present. But does that mean their futures remain unchanged? You won’t want to put this down until you know the answer – just make sure you finish reading before your coffee gets cold.

By Gabrielle Read


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