A Tale for the Time Being is our most recent book club’s pick. Before this I had never heard of this novel! It was published in 2013, and was a Man Booker Prize Finalist. And boy, oh boy, am I going to have a hard time giving you a review about this one. I am going to keep it spoiler free, but really try to punctuate the parts that moved me. Because that’s exactly what this novel did, it moved me.
It’s a story told in two voices, one being Nao in Japan. She’s writing a diary in which she’s trying to tell the story of her great grandmother’s life, Jiko, who is a Zen Buddhist Nun. The diary ends up also intertwining Nao’s personal struggles with wanting to end her own life. The diary then ends up washing up on the shore of a Vancouver beach, in which a novelist, Ruth finds it. From here the mystery of this diary ensues as Ruth becomes obsessed with trying to figure out what has happened to Nao following the Fukishima disaster, and also through her family, and personal struggles.
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.
Where do I begin? Ozeki has written a novel that opens up like nesting dolls. As you slowly start to delve deeper into the novel, and into memories in which both characters are reflecting on, the novel picks up with such a pace that you just need to know what’s going to happen. I think that many people who read this novel will all say just how awesome a character Jiko is. Nao portrays her as this calm, and sweet soul, but one who has a strong voice and an incredible sense of humour. There were sections I was laughing out loud! Then the next moment, you are struggling to read through Nao’s battle with bullying, and suicide. There are such complex themes in this culturally rich novel.
Lastly, the most beautiful part of this novel is the fact that Nao’s book fell into the right hands. And reader’s will know the feeling of when they love a novel, and pass it on to someone who also adores it! Ruth was the exact right reader for Nao’s diary. Ozeki places some of the most beautiful quotes throughout this novel from Proust, Socrates, Baudelaire, and more… and I just loved this little detail.
You might notice that one of the main character’s and the author share a name… Ruth. Until the Fukishima disaster, Ruth was writing a totally different book, with different characters. And then that tragedy had changed Japan, and possibly the world forever. Ozeki had decided to write herself as a fictional character responding to the events. She’s even said that using fiction to deal with the reality of great tragedies is as good as anyway to deal with the pain of it.
I could go on and on about this novel. I literally post-it marked, dog-eared, and underlined my way through A Tale for Time Being. There is SO much I haven’t told you about this novel, ranging from climate change to kamikaze pilots in WWII. But I’m not going into that, you will have to read it to find out 🙂
Until next time, happy reading!