Coffee (2020): Dinah Lenney


Bloomsbury Object Lessons

The first Bloomsbury Object Lessons book I read was High Heel (I’ll post on it soon), and I can’t help feeling that it spoiled me. I’ve since been working my way through other titles in the series and, so far, nothing quite lives up to the poetic blend of history, mythology and social history which High Heel accomplished, and which set my expectations (unreasonably high?) for the rest of the books. Take Coffee, for example. If the aim of this series is to present everyday objects in a new light, informing readers about their place in economic, social or art history, or enlightening us about how they’re made, you’d have thought that coffee was an easy thing to do well. I’m not much of a coffee drinker myself, but my boyfriend is, and I was hoping to find lots of interesting pieces of coffee trivia with which to impress him. Instead, I found myself ploughing through a bizarre stream of consciousness about the author’s life and how she drinks, buys and feels about her own coffee. The few pieces of context that I did pick up were squirrelled away in footnotes, and it’s rather disappointing when the two things you take away from a book about coffee are: a) a recommendation of another book that seems to do what this one should have done; and b) an amusing Jewish joke.

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