|Courtesy HaikuGirl and Canongate|
I saw this book all over the book blogosphere. It piqued my interest because I'm working on a writing project about literary "found footage" and A Tale for the Time Being sounded like it was operating in a similar vein. (The hype it was getting was not the kind of hype I'm allergic to, i.e. Harry Potter hype or John Green hype.) But I'm a busy person, and kind of broke, so I just put it on a list to get "someday" and kept on keeping on.
Lucky for me, my boss-friend picked this one up, and decided against keeping it in her permanent book collection. This one came in the same package as The Prophet Murders, but I put off reading it because 1) I had Swedish reading to focus on (including another novel in the Turkish Delight series) and 2) it is definitely a Bagel Book. I could tell that as soon as I started reading.
In a nutshell, A Tale for the Time Being is about a woman in Canada, Ruth, who finds and reads a diary that washed up along the coast. It turns out to be written by a Japanese schoolgirl, Nao, some years earlier.
Of course it's also about much more than that. There's prehistoric flora, quantum entanglement, philosophy, Zen monks, and insects (among others). But everything falls under that found diary and Ruth's relationship to it.
Ozeki displays an incredible technical range. She ends up writing from the perspective of five different people (not all of them are equally prominent; I don't think it's a spoiler to say that the book focuses primarily on two of them, so the book is much more focused than it sounds like it would be with 5 different protags) and gives them all incredibly distinct and personal voices. There are other metatextual indications when the writing shifts perspective, like a different font or a chapter title or so on, but Ozeki gives each of them a strong enough voice that you would be able to tell anyway.
A Tale for the Time Being is not only a technical achievement, though. Ozeki also creates a compelling story. By the end I put all thoughts of Bagel Books aside and plowed through because I wanted to find out what happened. I may have cried at a couple of points, even.
According to my GoodReads widget and some bonus calculations (some Swedish editions I read were unavailable on GoodReads?), I've read 18 books this year. A Tale for the Time Being is definitely my favorite so far and will more than likely remain my favorite for the entire year.