CafeLit – 'A Trifle Dead' – Livia Day, 'The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul' – Deborah Rodriguez

At this point in time Nicolatte is my favourite – but it is a moveable feast. There the coffee is up to it, the staff ultra-friendly and the light snack fare tasty and of lunch-like portions – neither over nor underwhelming for that time of day. Wood fired pizzas are also available, but its paramount asset is that it is super tiny-tot friendly. This Wellington Court establishment possesses shelves of playthings for the little people, allowing some respite for their adult minders to conduct mature conversations. Even those customers without infant attachments seem to acknowledge that here kids are free to play and are therefore tolerant of the baggage that comes with that.

When solo in the city, without the treasured accompaniment of my wondrous granddaughter, I tend to gravitate to the cafe at the rear of Fullers Bookshop. Here I can take to the Age in congenial, bookified surrounds and if I manage to snare a window position, I can watch the passing parade, as well as contemplate the moods of Kunanyi above. Newly discovered is Moto Vecchia on the Eastern Shore, near Eastlands. 2015 sees me committed to visit it more frequently despite the haul to get there. I loved it’s retro vibe. When my beautiful lady and I are out and about in Moonah we usually make time for a visit to the Magnolia 73 Cafe – mainly for their pies.

And either of these books, about to be reviewed by this scribe, would make for very tolerable reading indeed at any of the aforementioned watering holes. They are both light in tone page-turners – in fact ideal summer reading all round.

Livia Day’s ‘A Trifle Dead’ also has the advantage of being as local as the above establishments. Her Cafe La Femme is neither down at popular Salamanca nor up on the North Hobart strip, but slap bang in the guts of the CBD heartland, as are Nicolatte and Fullers. I love any tome with a Hobartian flavour – and this one has it in spades. Her fictional eatery also possesses views up to the mountain. It is especially popular with the local constabulary, possibly because of its feisty co-proprietor and her eclectic staff. But as events, concerning forms of entrapment and murder, unfold too close to home to be ignored by the luscious Tabitha, she takes time out from pulling lattes to do a little sleuthing into exactly what is going on. Imagine Phryne Fisher in contemporary times and you get the vibe. Tabitha Darling takes to sneaking around the burbs doing her best to solve a couple of conundrums at the same time as the crime spree – are they all inter-connected? To add a little spice we have two love interests – a stoic copper and a mysterious Scotsman – the latter also being a dab hand at mural painting, using one of the cafe’s walls as his canvas. When the criminal is eventually unveiled I hadn’t picked it – but then it all made sense.

trifle dead

Ms Day is perhaps better known as a successful writer for the younger brigade, but she is more than capable appealing to their parents as well. It’s certainly not a memorable work of literature, but as a competent, eminently readable whodunit she has won me over. She spins a terrific yarn.

As does Deborah Rodriguez in ‘The Little Coffee House in Kabul’. In this the writing is a tad more heated than the Tasmanian’s, but I would suspect it also sugar coats, to an extent, just how difficult life would be in one of the most dangerous cities in the world for a foreign small business woman. Still, some of what she related to us is grim enough – the fear of the Taliban, the misogyny and the never ending possibility that the person beside you – or serving you – could be a suicide bomber. But Sunny, a Yank, is trying to make a go of her cafe in the Afghan capital and is largely succeeding. The author has lived in the city herself for a considerable amount of time until it was in her best interests to get out, so she has a notion of what she is writing about. Her book also doubles as a layman’s guide into the labyrinth of corruption that greases the politics in that country. Sunny, unlike most of her countrypeople, does not ‘…infantalise everyone not like us.’ – perhaps giving an inkling as to why her business survives. The cafe, though, is under constant threat. She is struggling to attain UN certification, which would give it its best chance of ongoing survival. This challenge is one of the narrative threads, but it is also a love story on several levels. As with Tabitha at Cafe La Femme, Sunny has two potential beaux on the go – which of the duo will win her undying affection here? Also, as with the local book, the painting of a mural on a cafe wall is symbolic. Despite some terrible events occurring to our heroine and her mates, the awfulness of the situation is not milked for shock value, nor dwelt on. Thus it remains perfectly suited to the beach and languid, sunshine-y days.

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In the case of both authors, I would look forward to reading the subsequent publications now available – Day’s ‘Drowned Vanilla’ and the American’s ‘ The House on Carnaval Street’. Now, after all that, methinks it’s time for a shot of caffeine.

Nicolatte =

Moto Vecchia =

Magnolia 73 =


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