A Tale for the Time Being, Hardback
3 out of 5 (1 rating)


Stunning Limited Edition hardback with hand-crafted Nepalese binding and beautifully designed full-colour endpapers Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013 'Hi!

My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you.' Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home.

Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl.

She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami.

With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery.

In a small cafe in Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life.

In the face of cyberbullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place - and voice - through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.

Weaving across continents and decades, and exploring the relationship between reader and writer, fact and fiction, A Tale for the Time Being is an extraordinary novel about our shared humanity and the search for home.




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 <I><blockquote>'A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.' </i> </blockquote> With that definition on the first page and the fact that A Tale for the Time Being ends with six appendices (on subjects as diverse as quantum physics, Schrodinger's cat, Japanese temple names, and Zen Buddhism) as well as a bibliography and a glossary of Japanese phrases, it's clear from the start that this is a book which takes itself seriously, one where the reader is expected to do some work. And this worked for me at the start of the book, but as I read more and more I got the feeling that perhaps the author was trying a little too hard?Ruth, an American writer of Japanese descent, is walking along the beach near her home on a remote island in British Columbia, when she discovers a well-wrapped package containing the diary of Nao(ko) Yasutani, a Japanese teenager living in Tokyo, as well as other letters. As Ruth reads the diary she becomes more and more concerned about Nao's fate, not only because she assumes that the diary has been swept into the sea by the 2011 tsunami, but also because the diary reveals that Nao plans to commit suicide. Brought up in Silicon Valley, she is facing severe bullying in her new school in Tokyo, where her parents have returned to live after her father lost his job. And so the story continues, alternating between Ruth's life with her husband, a life which to someone from New York City seems sometimes to belong to someone else, and Nao's story in Tokyo. And as Nao tells her own story she also tells the story of her great-grandmother, still alive and well at the age of 104, who was an early feminist and writer in pre-war Japan, and then became a nun after the death of her son in a kamikaze mission in World War II.When the two strands of the narrative remained separate I had my hopes for this book, but as they begin to come together in the second half I was left with a growing feeling of disatisfaction. The book did not gel into the harmonious whole that I had hoped: rather as the mixture of ideas within the book seemed to be more and more disconnected from each other. So in the end a book with some excellent ideas, but whose execution, for me at any rate, does not wrap them into a coherent whole.

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