Synopses & Reviews
From the internationally bestselling author of The Wedding Officer
comes a novel whose stunning blend of exotic adventure and erotic passion will intoxicate every reader who tastes of its remarkable delights.
When a woman gives a man coffee, it is a way of showing her desire.
It was a cup of coffee that changed Robert Walliss lifeand a cup of very bad coffee at that. The impoverished poet is sitting in a London coffeehouse contemplating an uncertain future when he meets Samuel Pinker. The owner of Castle Coffee offers Wallace the very last thing a struggling young artiste in fin de siècle England could possibly want: a job.
But the job Wallis acceptsemploying his palate and talent for words to compose a “vocabulary of coffee” based on its many subtle and elusive flavorsis only the beginning of an extraordinary adventure in which Wallis will experience the dizzying heights of desire and the excruciating pain of loss. As Wallis finds himself falling hopelessly in love with his coworker, Pinkers spirited suffragette daughter Emily, both will discover that you cannot awaken one set of senses without affecting all the others.
Their love is tested when Wallis is dispatched on a journey to North Africa in search of the legendary Arab mocca. As he travels to coffees fabled birthplaceand learns the fiercely guarded secrets of the tradeWallis meets Fikre, the defiant, seductive slave of a powerful coffee merchant, who serves him in the traditional Abyssinian coffee ceremony. And when Fikre dares to slip Wallis a single coffee bean, the mysteries of coffee and forbidden passion intermingle…and combine to change history and fate.
When Robert Wallis, an impoverished poet in turn-of-the-century London, accepts a commission from eccentric coffee merchant Samuel Pinker to categorize the elusive tastes of coffee, little does he know his assignment will completely alter his life.
About the Author
Anthony Capella is a lover of all things culinary who lives in Oxfordshire, England. His previous novels, The Wedding Officer and The Food of Love, have been translated into twenty-two languages. He is at work on his next novel.
Reading Group Guide
1. What did you discover about fin-de-siècle
England by reading The Various Flavors of Coffee
? What makes this time and place ideal for love stories such as Robert and Emilys?
2. Discuss the significance of coffee as Samuel Pinkers chosen product. What makes Robert suited to the job of describing an addictive pleasure? What do Pinkers other marketing tactics achieve?
3. What sparks Emily and Roberts mutual attraction? What makes Emily different from the other women he has known?
4. Browse through the epigraphs that appear on the opening pages of various chapters and parts, and the quotation that opens the book. What sort of poetry do they form, echoing Roberts verse and enhancing the novel?
5. A frequent client of prostitutes, Robert becomes interested in the taboo subject of womens sexual pleasure. In what ways is he a very exceptional yet a very typical man for his generation? Why did society question whether it was possible for women to enjoy sex? Were you aware of the medical procedures once used to treat hysterics?
6. Fikre was literally enslaved, and Emily was symbolically enslaved. What do both characters demonstrate about womens history? How did obedience, virginity, and other factors determine their “value”?
7. How were Pinkers daughters affected by his parenting style? What distinctions did he make between daughters and sons?
8. Discuss Arthurs career in politics, and Emilys role in that life. Is their style of marriage completely outdated? Do similar marriages still exist in the contemporary world?
9. Compare Hector to Robert. What did Emily admire about both men? Was Hectors life driven more by fate or by his own choices?
10. At its core, is Fikres story any different from the other “various flavors” of love in the novel? In what ways is Mulu a desirable man, perhaps even more desirable than any of the other male characters?
11. Ultimately, what was the reason Robert and Emilys story unfolded as it did? Were you surprised by the revelations in her letter, appearing in chapter eighty-seven?
12. What did you learn about Britains suffragettes? What did Emilys hunger strike indicate about her true self? What similar social-justice movements exist today in your community?
13. Are there any traces of Frog left in the grown-up Philomena? How does Philomena honor her sisters legacy? In what ways are they very much alike?
14. What was the effect of the novels structure, with shifts in the verb tense and shifts in the points of view? What does the voice of an older Robert Wallis convey as he recalls his life?
15. What does Africa represent to Robert? How does the landscape of foreign lands compare to that of England? How do the novels varying settings create meaningful backdrops for the episodes in Roberts life?
16. Anthony Capellas previous novels also deal with sensual delights and international locales. How does this blend make his work unique?
Hailed for writing international bestsellers that delight the senses, Anthony Capella now brings readers a passionate adventure set against the backdrop of the coffee trade. Sweeping from London to Africa at the turn of the last century, The Various Flavors of Coffee
is a saga of forbidden love, trade secrets, and seductions of the palate. Robert Wallis is a struggling poet, managing to borrow his way into a life of decadence. Then one day a chance encounter at a coffeehouse puts him on a very different pathone that promises wealth, while leading him to a spirited suffragette who captures his heart. Their love is tested when Wallis travels to the legendary birthplace of coffee, searching for true Arab mocca. There, he will meet a defiant, breathtakingly beautiful slave who will change everything he ever believed about love … and about freedom.
The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Anthony Capellas The Various Flavors of Coffee. We hope they will enrich your experience of this extraordinary novel.