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A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki, Canongate 2013.
Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox on the beach by her home in Canada, inside it is a diary containing the innermost thoughts of a teenage girl. The diary writer, sixteen year old Nao, at the time of writing was living in Tokyo and ponders various issues including online bullying and her great-grandmother who is a Buddhist Nun.
Transporting the reader between time and place, part of the focus of the novel is after the 2011 tsunami. The characters of Ruth and Nao are so different, yet they share a loneliness and isolation, which connects them across the pages of Nao’s diary. Although she hails from Tokyo, Nao has spent time living in California with her family before her Father lost his job, and they had to return to Tokyo. As Nao is the new student at school, she is bullied mercilessly, something anybody who has ever been bullied will identify with – the helplessness that can engulf a person.
‘A Tale for the Time Being’ also focusses on wider issues such as Zen and Quantum Physics. It makes the reader examine the whole reading experience as well, how two people can read the same piece of writing and come to contrasting conclusions, and how writing can help you escape your current world, for a time. The subjects of kamikaze pilots, the 2004 tsunami, and 9/11 are also covered.
The writing was gripping, I read this on my Kindle Paperwhite, and could not wait to keep picking it up, to read more. I loved the characters of Nao and Ruth and the way it covered so many issues, there is definitely something for everybody in this novel.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013, ‘A Tale for the Time Being ‘is definitely a book you must read in your time being. Un-put-downable.