theladylovesbooks star rating A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The first I heard of Ruth Ozeki’s novel was when it cropped up on the shortlist for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.  Spurred on by the little orange Blippar sticker on the book’s cover, I investigated Canon gate’s publicity campaign.  The sticker told me that if I downloaded the free Blippar app, and ‘blipped’ I would experience an interactive book cover.  A what?  A this…

That’s a pretty cool gimmick.  Although I’m not sure how many would go out of their way to download an app.  Say you did have it though and you were browsing in a bookshop, then it would be a cool idea.  You could blip and it would give you a little trailer of the story.  You know, if you’re too lazy to read the back and don’t mind standing in a shop hosting your own little story telling corner.

I enjoyed aspects of Ozeki’s story; the Japanese culture – in particular hearing about cosplay and ijime (bullying). I loved the scenes with Nao’s Buddhist nun Jiko; the tenderness between the two was a brilliant contrast to the cruelty of Nao’s classmates and we thought the story of Jiko’s kamikaze pilot son was particularly moving. 

There was a much bigger story at play, Ozeki considering the nature of human kindness and consciousness, told through Nao father’s struggle in his both professional and personal life.  While I imagine this accounts for the novel’s inclusion on the Man Booker lists, I didn’t rate it from a story-telling point of view.

I know many readers are split on the matter of the split narrative! Some didn’t mind the Canadian-based Ruth and Oliver, while others would have preferred if Ozeki had just stuck with Nao and Jiko.  Personally it didn’t bother me too much.

The appendix however, especially the one on quantum mechanics and Schrödinger’s cat, were really over-egging the point. An editorial decision no doubt, but for me the story was strong enough to stand alone.

Fingers crossed for a film adaptation though.

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