Overwhelmingly, the reviewers of this book agreed that it feels like a play, should be a play, reads like a play - might even go and see it as a play. As long as we go in with that mindset, it has many qualities. Without that caveat, the text can be repetitive, slightly irritating and stilted. It was sufficiently bestselling in Japan to be made into a popular movie
There is a neat structure to the book ( indeed, scenes) with each chapter title relating to the relationship that needs addressed : The Lovers, Husband and Wife, The Sisters, Mother and Child.
As each character waits their turn to sit on the chair, and re-visit a point in their lives, there is a defined sense that time is stopping, the deliberate pouring of coffee, the instructions from Kazu.
The Japanese context is important,as the strict rules and protocols for accepting the ‘chair of time travel’ feel very specific. No one affected by this will actually change anything, they will just realise something about the situation, about themselves and how they must face reality. In some way, they have all projected false thoughts and reactions until this point, and ‘the chair’ shows them the error of their ways. In this sense the episodes feel a little like therapy, a form of dramatic or spiritual re-enactment.
We had some debate about the mechanism of ‘time travel’ - is it magical realism, or not? Or simply a modern day fable?
Also some interesting insights about the men versus women – it seems that the women are the more driven, alpha characters with the men having some vulnerabilities ( unattractive Gora, illiterate Fumaki) and yet it is the women who require the learnings from the café chair.
What is the message of the book? You can’t actually change the past, or influence the future, all you can do is realise the truth and trust yourself. And most importantly, perhaps, talk to one another before it’s too late.