Title / A Tale For The Time Being
Author / Ruth Ozeki
Publication Date / 2013
Page no. / 422
Overall Star Rating / ★★★★
Goodreads synopsis: In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
Full of Ozeki’s signature humour and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.
I have been meaning to read this book for quite some time now and so I finally picked it up this month. I am so glad I did as I thought this was a fantastic book. From the very beginning I could tell that I was going to enjoy this book, mainly due to the writing style. Personally I find I can take a little while to get into a book by a new author but I didn’t really have the issue with this book – I found it so easy to get into. I liked the inclusion of Japanese words, which are explained using footnotes. I find footnotes can become a bit of a chore in some books but I liked in this book that they were just dotted throughout and weren’t added too much. Some people may find it a little jarring though, so it may be something to be aware of going in. In many ways this book lacks a bit of plot. Don’t get me wrong you do have the basis of a plot but it’s not very plot driven book. It is about what is happening (or happened) to the two main characters, Nao and Ruth. It mainly follows Nao as she grows up in Tokyo and Ruth who finds and reads Nao’s diary – in that way it is a bit of a meandering plot which contains stories Nao chooses to tell us. I hope that makes sense. One small critique I have is that this could have been a little bit shorter, in my opinion. Having said that I never felt bored, or that it dragged.
I will say that this is quite a hard book in many ways. If you have or are struggling with suicide or bullying, then I would only recommend this to you if you feel you are in a strong place, as this may be quite triggering. Also a trigger warning for depression and rape. Although this does touch on these hard topics, I felt that it was done well and in a respectful way, if that makes sense. It is a little heartbreaking at times though. I definitely found Nao’s quite a bit more compelling than Ruth’s but both perspectives are important and they are both well written. I loved the way Ozeki wrote Nao’s chapters, as if she was talking directly to us at times. In this way I think it’s almost natural that we are perhaps more attached to Nao (at least I was anyway), because her perspective is more personal. Ruth seems more distant and perhaps preoccupied. I just preferred Nao’s perspective – I also found Ruth a little frustrating at times, although this didn’t affect my overall reading enjoyment. I think the characters are so well written and complex. There are elements of both that I didn’t really get along with but that is true of real life and I think it shows Ozeki’s skill at creating fleshed out characters. It’s not black and white with them – they both have good and bad traits in them.
Favourite quote: “Sometimes when she told stories about the past her eyes would get teary from all the memories she had, but they weren’t tears. She wasn’t crying. They were just the memories, leaking out.”
Overall I thought this was a fantastic book and I can’t believe a left this long to read it :). I will definitely be checking out more of Ozeki’s books – I think she has two other books out so I will be checking those out. As you can probably tell I highly recommend checking this book out, especially if you are interested in Japanese culture. I know this wasn’t a very long review but hopefully that means I was concise and I just wanted to review this book anyway as it was really good. I definitely think this won’t be for everyone though, as I think some may find this too hard to read or perhaps a little boring. If you guys have read this book, what did you think? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.