Teddy Everett is dying in a prison hospital. He is the head of a vast coffee empire, Everett and Sons and he is telling his life story, his Coffee Story. Teddy Everett is a brilliant character. Despite his obvious flaws, his penchant for sex and his history of communism, he is utterly captivating. Teddy has spent his entire life regretting a betrayal against the girl he has loved all of his life, Lucy and he wants to air his closet before he perishes in disgrace.
Peter Salmons writing throughout The Coffee Story is incredibly well crafted. As the entire novel is narrated by teddy, his cancer drug treatment weaves in and out the narrative. Whether it’s through a mention of his current condition mixed up with days gone by or through repetition of things he has already said. Admittedly, the repetition becomes slightly tiresome by the end but as it is written this way to enhance the character, it is forgivable.
One such utterance is the description of Lucy first walking out of the jungle in Ethiopia and into his life. This small structure of sentences appears over ten times and borders on overuse.
To linger on negatives for a moment longer, the only other issue I had with the novel was that there are some pages that deliver the history of Ethiopia and many times they just don’t fit within the narration. It breaks the bond between reader and storyteller and it can be a little jarring.
Other than that, The Coffee Story is a simply fantastic book. It may not be to everybody’s tastes, however. There’s plenty of swearing and bucketloads of gratuitous sex. I consider myself hard to shock but some of the sex scenes caused me to grimace a bit. That’s not to say that they’re over the top, they suit Teddy and his lifestyle perfectly.
This is where peter Salmons writing is so good. He crafts paragraphs that set your brain up for a certain reaction and then he punches you with the last line and messes with your mind. A simple example of this would be a rather funny description of an act of sex with his wife that ends with them smashing the table they happen to be “using”. The build up creates a smirk on your face but then in the final line, Salmon deliver a slice of utter heartbreak (that I won’t spoil). This sharp one-two punch is used with great effect throughout the book.
In fact, much of the book is funny, but in a very dark way. It could be described as a black comedy, though it reminds me of the great tragedies. It’s a short novel that many could swallow in a day and I recommend that everyone gives it a chance. If we used half stars on Libri, The Coffee Story would have received four and a half stars, as those two low points stop it from being a perfect novel.
The Coffee Story is available now