A Tale for the Time Being

Near the beginning of this novel, our endearing, exuberant and engaging protagonist, Nao, says something along the lines of: "You're my kind of time being and together we'll make magic!". Of course she then goes on to contradict herself with the lines "Ugh. That was dumb. I'll have to do better. I bet you're wondering what kind of stupid girl would write words like that." but my point is, that's exactly what happens with this novel; this is a book that simply couldn't exist without its readers... this is a book that has been written to change the reader's perspective on everything, and, within its pages, magic really is made.

Author: Ruth Ozeki | Publisher: Cannongate Books | Release date: 11.03.13 | Pages: 422 | Source: For Review
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“A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”

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 first 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 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.

MY THOUGHTS: Ruth Ozeki leaves an indelible impression on her readers, the entwined lives of two "time beings" etched into their minds. Perhaps this book won't be your cup of tea – you'll find the protagonist's tangents tedious, the rambling on about time repetitive and the contrast of cultures irrelevant from the plot – but no matter how much you enjoy this tale, you will not and cannot forget it. Ozeki's words are rich, true-spoken, enchanting; The Tale for the Time Being is an achievement, yes, but far too personal, too informal, too affecting to be called so. As Nao "[reaches] forward through time to touch you", you can't help but wonder how the author has created a novel so profoundly moving that it no longer seems like a novel at all.

“You wonder about me. I wonder about you. Who are you and what are you doing?”

The first thing that struck me about this novel is how incredibly aware our protagonist, and indeed our author, is about the reader: Nao about Ruth, Ruth about us. It's rare to read a book that draws such a Holden Caulfield-esque link between the two, and even rarer to read a novel that does this whilst simultaneously balancing out two separate story lines. There's no doubt that Ozeki is a skilled author, no doubt whatsoever, but this relationship she has built between between the reader and the writer, the connection she has crafted between fiction and reality, is what sets her miles above the rest.

A Tale for the Time Being covers many topics: some unbearably brutal, some truly fascinating. The blend of cultures woven into the book gives a new dimension to the novel – the footnotes, in particular, are extremely insightful. Ozeki has already created something incredible with both the characters and the plot, but the combination of Zen, WWII history and Japanese culture transform the book into a feast for the brain (I am well aware this may only apply to me, and others may find all of this unnecessary!). But then of course we reach the other end of the spectrum: grim subjects, such as suicide, yet tackled with just as much flair and consideration. Whilst areas of the novel are undeniably dark and tragic, other parts are funny and uplifting and all of it is compelling.

But onto the question I promised to answer in this review: is this book suitable for teenagers? My immediate answer is yes, I mean, I read it after all... but then again, I don't feel as if reading this book is a question of age, but rather of maturity. If you think you can tackle tougher themes, then give this book a go; if you're unsure of whether or not you could deal with this, then wait a few years (believe me, this novel is worth waiting for).

All in all, A Tale for the Time Being is a stunning novel that I simply can't do justice to. Within Nao, Ozeki has created a fictional character for our generation of readers: a 16-year-old girl who is my kind of time being, and maybe yours too.

Favourite Quotations:     
“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.”
"You're my kind of time being and together we'll make magic!"
“Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader’s eye. Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin.”

In One Word?
Why? 
I have to admit, this book will probably not be to everybody's taste; if you're looking for a thrilling plot, a whirlwind romance and a gang of tough and unbeatable villains, none of that will be found within these pages. Instead you are given a very realistic, touching tale accompanied with the most uplifting of epilogues.


18 comments:

  1. Oh, you've made me even more desperate to read this now, Ruby! A Tale for the Time Being was my most anticipated of the Booker shortlist anyway and now I absolutely MUST get hold of it. Fantastic review!

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    1. Thank you Maya! I am certain you'll love this one, seeing as we have such a similar taste. :)

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  2. This book sounds nothing short of incredible. I definitely need to get my hands on a copy of it soon so I can delve into this story, I'm already intrigued by Ruth and Nao. Brilliant review!

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    1. It definitely is incredible, and Ruth and Nao are definitely intriguing! :)

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  3. I've seen this around in a couple of places and it looks really good- I'm so glad you really enjoyed this, Ruby! Must look out for this now, when I have money xD Great review! x

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    1. Thank you Georgia! :) I hope you enjoy it if you get the chance to pick it up. :)

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  4. As you know, I'm currently reading this and I couldn't agree more with you. The best book I've read all year, actually. From the very first line, this story pulls you in. It's magnificently engrossing! As a fellow teen, I definitely agree with you that finding the novel accessible, depends on your level of maturity. What a brilliant review, Ruby! I can't wait to see what you think of the other books on the shortlist! Found out that I'll be getting a couple of them for review too, exciting!

    Happy reading. :)

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    1. Yay! I'm super glad you're loving it so far – towards the end it gets so depressing, but then the epilogue is so uplifting! :')

      Thank you, glad you like the review! And ooooh yay, then we can compare what we think of the shortlist. :)

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  5. This sounds absolutley brilliant! The way you described it has me longing for a copy and it's shot up to the top of my wish list. It all sounds so fascinating and all I've heard is endless praise. Great Review Ruby, as usual, so damm good at writing!

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    1. Hehe thank you Sunny! :) And yes, it's such an intriguing, insightful novel. Hopefully that endless praise will continue with Jack's review! ^.^

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  6. Wow. Amazing review. It sounds great. Thanks for reviewing it, because I had never heard about this book until I read your review.

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    1. Thank you, I'm glad I've made you aware of this incredible book! ;D

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  7. I love your site! You will be in our prayers and thoughts! Nice and informative post
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  8. I'm actually a lot more sensitive with books like these now than I used to be... So I'd probably sniffle my way through it... I'm glad you enjoyed it though and that it really hit a cord with you! I've never read any books where the author has created a link between the characters and the reader... I'm intrigued!

    Great review! :D

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    1. Yeah, it definitely meant a lot to me, this book. :) I hope you give it a go if you ever get the chance!

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  9. Wow, this sounds like a really unique and moving book. It sounds like the author took a delicate topic and handled it very elegantly...And it must really be a great novel to have been nominated for the Man Booker prize!

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  10. I can't wait to read A Tale for the Time Being! I've had it for a while, but for some reason just haven't picked it up yet.

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