About the author:
Ruth Ozeki is an award winning novelist and filmmaker. She was born and raised in Connecticut by an American father and a Japanese mother. She has also been ordained as a Zen Buddhist Priest. This is her third novel.
My thoughts on the book:
I’ve read very few of the Man Booker Prize winners, let alone the nominees. Reading a nominated story, it makes you judge if the nomination was correct, if it deserved a nomination ahead of the many others that vied for the honor. I don’t feel I can be one to judge on such criteria as yet (thankfully). This book caught my attention because of the title, and not the nomination. My initial impression on reading the title was the usual phrase that I’ve known almost for twenty years now, the phrase that tells us to wait till something better comes along. It’s not one of my favorite phrases, so reading that in a title, it was quite funny, and I felt it would be a story about something that was there till something better came along. I picked it up, only to read and see that it was something completely different.
The novel however opens with that beloved phrase, first in the introductory words once spoken by an ancient Buddha, and then in the introduction of the character Nao, (pronounced Now) a Tokyo schoolgirl. The girl pens a diary about her last days on Earth. This diary, years later, is found by an author Ruth (possibly a variation of the author Ozeki herself) and her husband, who opens it. Reading the diary, the couple begins to search for the schoolgirl to see if she is still alive. The novel flits between the diary, and the character of Ruth and her husband, exploring the vagaries of time itself. It also explores the journey of Nao, what she has gone past to reach her present (when she pens the diary).
The novel is a story in a story in a story. You’ll get what I mean when you read the book. Nao, the schoolgirl is the character that you love, and Ruth the author is the character that is essential, but not really as loveable. You read along with the schoolgirl’s voice, and have a tendency to skim over the author’s character. The husband is a secondary character who’s there, yet not there, ineffective. He’s sort of a dialogue lender to the author’s character. That’s all.
I liked reading this book, with its theme of time, and two characters connected by a diary. It explores a lot more than time, and there are these concepts and notions that I’ve heard of, but not read before too. But those were something that I skimmed by. The tale for the time being, from a time being is what kept me engrossed. A tale worth reading.
Title: A Tale for the Time Being
Author: Ruth Ozeki
Publishers: Random House India
Price: INR. 499
(12th Nov, 2013)