What Are You Reading Thursday: Discovering the Story Behind the Coffee Table Read, The Color of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe

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From philosophy books to lighthearted romance novels, we all have this carefully curated stack of decorative coffee table books that makes us seem more educated and interesting to visiting guests. But when they ask about one of the books, chances are we have no idea what it’s about. So in attempts to maintain our facade, we mutter on about the synopsis we glanced over or make something up based on the title. This works well up until the point our beloved guest decides they are so intrigued by our summary that they want to borrow it. Or worse, they confess that they read it. #busted. In order to prevent this from happening, I decided to dive into one of my own coffee table reads:  The Color of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe.

The Color of Tea is a fictional romance novel that follows Grace Miller, a trailing-spouse who works whatever jobs she can get within the service industry while her ambitious husband Pete pursues his ambitious career goals (Tunnicliffe). His latest career venture brings them to Macau, China- where Grace is faced with the alienation of living in a country where she doesn’t speak the native language or has any friends. To add fuel to the fire, her marriage is on the rocks. She wants a baby, but her husband clearly does not, as is made evident by his reaction to Grace reading the pregnancy staple What to Expect When You’re Expecting in the bathtub (5, Tunnicliffe). Later on, she finds out that she is infertile, shattering her dreams of ever having a child of her own flesh and blood.

Between her unravelling marriage, the devastation of never being able to have a child and the alienation of living in a foreign country, Grace must now lean more into herself and her passions. This leads her to become an entrepreneur and open her own French cafe, where she turns her love for tea & delicious macaroons into a profit. But it is more than just money for Grace, as her cafe helps her fill her void of not having a child and bridges the gap between her and the locals. It also becomes her escape from her marital troubles, even if only temporarily.

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

I’m only a few chapters in, but so far Tunnicliffe’s simple yet descriptive writing style has kept me engaged. I’m also curious to see how everything unfolds for Grace. Like how long will the cafe be able to fill the void of not having her own child? How will she adapt to her new life outside her relationship with her husband (Which she clearly didn’t have before)? Will her newfound ambition and success cause more problems for her marriage? While I don’t know the answers just yet, I have made a few initial predictions on what lies ahead for Grace.

First of all, I think she will get a divorce. There are just too many signs and red flags in the first couple of pages that lead me to believe that Grace & Pete are in an unhappy marriage. Grace doesn’t have a life outside her marriage and Pete clearly is more of a workaholic, ambitious, career-oriented man, who doesn’t seem to want to settle down in one place long enough to have a family. With Grace starting to become more independent and ambitious with her cafe venture, the dynamic of their relationship is also changing (Or bringing to light the years of issues they swept under the rug). Therefore,  I think Grace will leave Pete and find a new man who is a better match for the new version of herself (Who she’ll probably meet at her cafe since it’s such a crucial part of the novel). Moreover, I believe her cafe will flourish and become one of the “it” places the locals enjoy gathering. As a result, Grace will grow close with some of the regulars who will become her new friends/like family, who will hopefully help her pick up a little more Cantonese. These new relationships will enrich her life and also help live her dream of having her own family, even if it’s not in the traditional sense of things.

Additionally, the novel’s cover is rather lovely, with its simple, swiss minimalist design that accurately reflects Tunnicliffe’s writing style. The title, set in a calligraphic handwritten font, resembles that of ancient Chinese calligraphy (Which ties in with the setting). In addition, it brings to light that personal touch that comes with Grace’s French cafe. I also am a fan of the colour composition that consists of soft pastel colours that match that of traditional French macaroons. This colour scheme even blends nicely with the tea tag-like label that the title and On the other hand, I’m less of a fan of the interaction between the use of three different typefaces from three different font classifications. Personally, I don’t think they interact well, which is an important thing to keep in mind when you’re designing with multiple typefaces. I also think that a bit more spacing between the respective texts would have made it a lot cleaner. Furthermore, Grace is described as being a redhead in the book (And on the back cover!), yet on the front cover, the woman has brown hair with a reddish tinge. I’m not sure if she dyes her hair later on in the novel, but from what I’ve read thus far, this is an inaccurate depiction of Grace.

Overall, Tunnicliffe’s The Color of Tea is a well-written novel with an engaging storyline that I’m looking forward to continuing to read. So hopefully, by the next time a guest swings by and happens to strike a conversation about this coffee table read, I’ll know exactly what to say.

Works Cited

Tunnicliffe, Hannah. The Color of Tea. Sydney: Pan, 2012. Print.

Thank you so much for reading this article! If you’re interested in reading The Color of Tea or just want to add it to your coffee book collection, you can find it on GoodReads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13259388-the-color-of-tea.

What are your coffee table reads? Have you ever read them or are they just decoration? Let me know in the comments below!

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