Henk's Reviews > Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
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it was ok
bookshelves: owned, japanese-literature

Despite a tantalizing premise the execution of time travel with ever added on new rules is sloppy. And the underlying morale of the four stories is basically highly conservative in my opinion.

The underlying messaging that grated on me
To kick off in respect to my last sentence I mean the following:
(view spoiler)

Would make a fine Netflix series, but as a book did not work for me
Not to be mistaken, the concept is nice, but the execution sloppy. Also after the first story the newness of the premise starts to wear off (despite some arbitrary rule changes all of the sudden) and things like the weirdly specific descriptions of people, focussed solely on the colour of their clothes, started to catch my eye.
An example:
A woman entered the cafe alone. She was wearing a beige cardigan over a pale aqua shirt-dress and crimson trainers, and a white canvas bag.

More annoyingly, Toshikazu Kawaguchi explains everything the characters feel, making the stories overly simple and sentimental. Somewhere the following passes someone’s mind: But none of those feelings could be formed into words.

But there are literally two paragraphs before that exactly describe how the character feels and what's she feels and why she feels that way.

In the end I feel would work fine as a TV series (with hopefully a more progressive messaging at its core) but failed as a book.
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Reading Progress

February 9, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
February 9, 2020 – Shelved
March 19, 2020 – Shelved as: owned
August 6, 2020 – Started Reading
August 6, 2020 –
page 75
35.21% "Liking the concept more than the execution till now but the Alzheimer popping up does give the book a bit more emotional weight and layering."
August 7, 2020 – Finished Reading
September 7, 2020 – Shelved as: japanese-literature

Comments Showing 1-44 of 44 (44 new)

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message 1: by Odette (new)

Odette Brethouwer Thank you fr this honest review. It made me remove it from my want to read shelf, so you saved me reading time and a bad experience!


Henk You’re welcome ;-) Maybe I am a bit harsh but it struck me as an unifying theme in the four stories while finishing the book, and after that realization it was hard to ignore


message 3: by Laysee (new)

Laysee Henks, what a pity! The title of this book sounds promising. Good review.


Henk Thanks Laysee, indeed what's not to like about time travel if done well...


message 5: by Fran (new) - added it

Fran Henk...oh,no! I was hoping to read this soon....Thank you for the heads up! Great review!


Henk Yes it is a shame, I had very high hopes of it and its cover is so pretty, isn't it?


Readers Bay That’s very accurately summarised and yes I FEEL EXACRLY THE SAME WAY ITS SO SIMPLIFIED


Henk Thanks, yes it surprised me in a negative way 😒


message 9: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Espinoza Thank you for this review! I remember seeing this book as it came out the premise sounds good, but the story doesn't sound like my cup of tea. Yikes.


message 10: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk Your welcome Amanda ;-)


message 11: by Asma (new)

Asma This had been on my tbr; but after reading your review, I've removed it.
Thanks for your helpful review and saving my time!


message 12: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk You’re welcome Asma ☕️


Regina Andreassen Henk, our views regarding this book seem to differ greatly. This is not the type of literature that I tend to read; this is a light reading, this my expectations were moderate and the book did not disappoint me. I decided to buy this book without even knowing of its existence based on the cover; it was therefore and impulse pick, plus I did like the title. Frankly, by the time O started reading it, I didn’t even know what the book was about. I didn’t want to know but I wanted to discover it myself. The first 30 pages were the least enjoyable, a bit sloppy, and I almost gave up but I persevered and I am so pleased that I did . I decided to judge this book for its merit within its genre. I agree that some of the ideas behind may sound conservative but as a whole I did like the premise. A 3.75 stars in its genre- in my view. I think the first and last chapters needed more work though. What to add? I recommend this book but I think people should keep in mind that this book is far from a masterpiece; to me it is simply light and charming.


message 14: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk Well good the book worked for you 😄


Elisha I have the same qualms you have, especially with the author's depiction of women. It's such a joke to me that it's 2020 and we still have males writing their lame ass projections onto female characters.

Within the the first few pages we get "she was smart and beautiful, but she didn't know it", as well as "you could tell her figure was good even though her clothes didn't fit".

Give me a break. Writing women like this reeks of men who have never had any type of friendship with a woman, let alone an intimate relationship. It's completely unguided and absolutely not the way a woman wants to see herself written in a story.


message 16: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk Yes definitely, quite cringeworthy quotes...


Savannah I see many of your concerns with the book as facets of the story that were lost in translation, both in language and cultural perspective. I don’t necessarily think this is wrong, as I assume you don’t know Japanese and have never lived in Japan (please correct me if I am wrong), but I think it’s an important factor to point out. I can see how viewing this story and some of the characterizations from a western-centric perspective would result in your assessment, but it’s also important to consider it was not written from that perspective.


message 18: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk Oh you are right in a sense, and I am sure more perspectives on the book are quite possible from the cultural background, but for me this ended up as quite a let down from what I had expected upfront.


message 19: by Val (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val Hicks I really hated this book! All the stories grated on me but I hadn't made the connection that they were all portraying some gross views on women! Thank you for articulating that for me. As far as the simplistic style, this story is originally written as a play! When I think about it like that and imagine the play, I'm able to be much kinder to the execution of this book. Though whoever thought it'd be a good idea to translate a play to a novel to English, is beyond me. Terrible idea and it doesn't work here, but I do think watching it as a play would at least be a fun time.


message 20: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk I think that would work better, a play rendition. The setting in one place also lends itself quite well to it.


Wombat Totally agree!


message 22: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk Thanks! 🙏🏽


message 23: by Dannielle (new)

Dannielle Many of the comments are about how mysogynistic this book is, but you also need to understand that this book is from another culture and another time


message 24: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk I understand those points of view, but I believe this was written in 2015. If this was something from Yukio Mishima, Junichiro Tanizaki or Yasunari Kawabata the age of the work would be an explanation I'd be more aboard with. In this context I want to point out a work like Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 that is very clear eyed from a Korean writer on her perspective on this matter.


Bibliotec_ale I totally agree that the book gives a conservative vibe, especially the fourth story (I'm still so angry about it, especially with the husband that apparently can't choose between his wife and a "baby" conceived four weeks earlier). But I liked everything else :)


message 26: by P (new) - added it

P Era I've just started but your review and a couple others have convinced me to quit now. I am reading the English version, so maybe something good here has been lost in translation


Becky Peters Interesting review and comments. Personally I enjoyed this book in both audio and text. And my original comments remain the same. I believe very much was lost in translation and our western lack of understanding of the Japanese culture. Go easy guys. It's a couple of human stories not an epic journey. Just my 2c.


message 28: by Dung (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dung Luong I personally think that most of your criticisms on this book is due to the lack of understanding and exposure to Japanese culture! All of the premises in this book make sense to me as an asian!

As some people have already mentioned, this book seem to be lost in translation! You need to understand that it is extremely hard to capture the soul of the Japanese language with English, and I don’t blame the translator for that!


message 29: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk I'm half Asian actually ;-)

Anyhow I am amazed how much reactions this review manages to keep on garnering.


Swati This is a first! I am sorry you didn't like the book but I do see your points.


Becky Peters Dung Luong I could not agree more. And by no means do I blame the translator. The more reviews I read the more I think about the stories and their simplicity or perhaps their depth of human feelings. I actually like it more now in retrospect!


message 32: by Shaelyn (new)

Shaelyn I'm glad I read your review, you laid it all out pretty clear. You might want to put some type of spoiler alert on it as it does sum up some story lines a bit. Also, I appreciated your response to a few comments regarding the cultural aspect of the story.


message 33: by Tati (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tati Not that you’ll ever see this. But I disagree. I think in a Netflix show, some level of nuance would be lost. It would become a sweeping romance and mini anthology series quickly forgotten and easy to watch half minded whereas in a book you don’t miss out on anything. And I agree, maybe it’s a little old fashioned but it’s also timeless. People still cry when their boyfriends leave them and have difficulty expressing their emotions. In terms of the feelings being unable to form into words right after a paragraph about their feelings— I don’t think it’s an oxymoron. Just because the author was able to express what his characters were thinking doesn’t mean that the character could which further serves to drive home that theme of what was left unsaid.


Luísa First, I think you should let people know you have a bunch of spoilers in your review. Secondly, you should know a little bit more about Japan, its culture and society, even though you mentioned you are half Asian. Thirdly, I think you didn't quite read how complex the characters really are, and the ultimate decisions and emotions shown by the characters are not misplaced at all... But this is my opinion, to which I am entitled to, as you are to yours in your review.


message 35: by Henk (last edited May 24, 2021 01:20PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk I am still astonished about the audacity of people who have barely any Japanese works read on their own shelves telling me a) that I should know more about Japan and its culture and b) that this utterly mediocre work would than in some kind of way be transformed in a masterpiece.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I don't go trolling reviews with how wrong I think people are based on baseless assumptions about someone else.

Come back with your opinion when you have over 25 Japanese novels read and reviewed, sponsor and follow the weekly History of Japan podcast and are part of the Japanese Literature group here on Goodreads.


message 36: by Alan (new)

Alan Henk wrote: "I am still astonished about the audacity of people who have barely any Japanese works read on their own shelves telling me a) that I should know more about Japan and its culture and b) that this ut..."

A justifiably frank response, Henk. I am picking this one up soon, and hope I enjoy it. Loved your review either way.


Luísa Well... I wasn't trolling your review. I didn't go look into your profile to know how many books written by Japanese authors you have read or in which groups you are... You are right when you say that my second point was baseless assumption. Also, I didn't claim that this book is a masterpiece, it might become to some people, like a book I find mediocre you might find excellent. I also didn't know that to read a book and have an opinion about it required a vast knowledge of Japanese authors and to belong to a specific group here on Goodreads... Thank you for rudely replying.


message 38: by Sparky (new)

Sparky Jo Drat! I have this on my reading list but gosh and golly I had suspicions it might be like this and reading a review that confirms it... look I'll still read the book, but maybe not right away! Thank you for the review! Sorry if I'm butting into your chats here!!! ^_^


Scott Fisher I wouldn't base much on this review. I stopped reading it after a while because I think the review is overthinking a pretty mild book. For those who put this book down because of the review, I would maybe reconsider. I don't think you have to understand Japanese culture. Perhaps just forgive people for not being you and not having different values and you will probably enjoy the novel.


message 40: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk Well all reviews are subjective and its clear this book has a large group of followers who feel passionate about it so by all means, everyone is encouraged to form their opinion on the book


message 41: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston It's a shame to see how much flak you're getting for this review, Henk. I think people should write their own reviews to counterbalance yours rather than criticize you for your honest opinion.

I gave up on it, myself, and didn't read enough of it to justify rating it. There are too many books to read to finish reading something I don't like. I had similar problems as you with the first story. Hopefully people don't feel I don't know enough about Japan to make such a comment.


message 42: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk Thanks for your comment Bill!


Scott Fisher Subjective is one thing but your review is hypercritical, often inaccurate, lacks empathy and is largely based on straw men. I’m not a huge fan of the book but I think your review is misleading. I would assume most people would read the novel and feel you have overemphasised minor details. As a simple example, one story involved dementia but you ignored this and made the woman sound like a fool.


message 44: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk My review is my review, and I completely stand by how I perceived this book. Also I think the morale I perceived at the heart of all the four stories is far from a minor detail but at the core of why I did not enjoy the book.
If anything all the people defending their own interpretation and feelings regarding this book make me inclined even more to dislike this book.


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