Attracted by both an interesting title and a beautiful cover, I had high expectations for The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella as I had so enjoyed The Wedding Officer previously. Unfortunately I was in for a letdown. At slightly over 700 pages, this was a big mess of a story that dealt with love, sex, coffee, slavery, Africa, the suffragette movement, business and ultimately loss. The main character, who at the beginning of the book warns you that you won’t like him, starts off as a dilettante fop who would rather spend his time in a whorehouse than learning to be a responsible grown up. By the end of the book he has come full circle, but by that time I hardly cared.
Don’t get me wrong, there were parts of this book that were very readable and interesting. It just went off on too many tangents and he seemed to write himself into a corner more than once. He used sex and earthy descriptions to advance the story, which after a couple of times got rather silly and boring. If he had perhaps narrowed his focus to one or two of the above mentioned subjects he may have produced a more cohesive story.
What this author did produce is a rather readable, well researched soap opera that was a little too full of drama and florid language to be taken seriously. Too bad, as I think this could have been an extraordinary story.
He's definitely broke, so dissolute 1890s London poet Robert Wallis accepts a commission from coffee merchant Samuel Pinker to write a guide categorizing the various tastes of coffee. This starts Robert’s journey to maturity, touching on such diverse elements as the coffee trade, women's suffrage, futures trading and slavery along the way. You’ll never sip a cup of java with the same casual taste buds again.
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