Linda Reviews

Published: 06-Apr-2021

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Two cafes / Two books / Two totally different stories

The Secrets of Strangers

The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman

In a few words: A gunman enters a café and holds the staff and customers hostage. A day that will change all their lives forever.

In a few more words: Sam’s personal problems come to a head when he storms into a London Café, fires a fatal shot, locks the doors and holds staff and customers hostage. Over the course of the day those in the café gradually get an insight into each other’s lives and what led them to be in this shared traumatic experience. The hostages and the gunman show a growing empathy toward one another. At one stage Sam wonders if the empathy he is feeling for his captives and the situation he has put them in is “Stockholm syndrome in reverse”. As the strangers get to know each other and their inner demons and secrets are revealed we will also grow to understand and empathies with the individuals. This book is more about the characters than the event.

There is no doubt that the author has drawn on her experience as a barrister, a mediator, and a crisis line listener to put herself into each of the characters to make a believable and gripping read.

There are similarities in this story to the 2014 Sydney Lindt Café siege. I wonder if this was an inspiration for ‘The Secret of Strangers’? Having moved to NZ from the UK in 2002 this event is unlikely to have escaped the attention of Charity Norman.

And for something different…

Before the coffee gets cold

Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

There is a little café in Japan where a special table and a special seat are set aside for those who wish to travel back in time to a previous visit to the café. You cannot change the future through this brief chance to revisit your past. Maybe you want to apologise to a friend? Say the things you wish you had? See someone for the very last time (again)? Would you take up this offer if given the chance? And just remember - you have to leave before the coffee gets cold.