My first ever 5-star Man Booker nominated book! A Tale for the Time Being (audiobook) was absolutely fantastic. Stunning. Remarkable. Most assuredly one of the best audiobooks and stories I’ve read this year. I was completely and utterly invested in this story, in the characters and in the tremendous creativity and ingenuity of this multi-layered tale.
The audio narration of this ingenious story is something that I cannot simply explain to you how amazing it was. To hear Ozeki breath the life and soul in to each and every one of her characters as she intended the reader to understand them, was an incredible listening pleasure. Each voice was distinct and I found myself arriving at work late every day so I wouldn’t have to stop the audio, I found myself driving an extra 20 minutes on the commute home, I even took to leaving for lunch to just drive around and hold on here…. at one point I even strapped on the running shoes to go for a run (!!) all just so I did not have to end my time spent with Nao and Ruth, and Old Jico, Oliver and Haruki #1, the inhabitants of the island where Ruth & Oliver lived, etc. That my friends is sound and genuine proof that A Tale for the Time Being is a stellar 5-star read.
While I was initially shocked to see this not make the Giller Prize Longlist this year, I believe I now understand the judges point of view, or supposed point of view – it has already been Longlisted and Shortlisted (and fingers crossed the winner) of the Man Booker Prize and perhaps hoping to not see a repeat of a “Hilary Mantel” occurrence where everyone is shut out as she takes home every single literary prize, such as what occurred last year. Although, the judging panel for the Gillers’ this year described their Longlist choices:
“These are essential stories. Each of these novels and story collections offer a glimpse of who we are, who we might be. Whether set in postwar Vienna, or 1970s Montreal, contemporary Afghanistan or Newfoundland, each of these books took us out of ourselves to places that were at times uncomfortable, at times exhilarating.”
I believe A Tale for the Time Being wonderfully and undeniably achieves this as well, but do seem to understand the decision to allow other and deserving authors their chance to shine.
A Tale for the Time Being encompasses an extraordinary myriad of topics, and initially you are left to wonder if it would be an enjoyable read, or if it would be overly ambitious and leave the reader confused and lost . But no, Ozeki has brilliantly inter-weaved quantum physics, time, longing, bullying, suicide, prostitution, depression, environmental art and environmental destruction, connection, globalization (among others) with astonishingly original stories. In one book all of this incorporated in to two diaries, letters, emails, unfinished memoirs and recounts the lives of a multitude of characters struggling with, at times, very connected and similar feelings. It’s amazing. It’s breathtaking. And I honestly shed a tear when my time with Ruth & Oliver and Nao & Jico & Haruki #1 came to an end.
Many times throughout the story, the “Jungle Crow”, which is native to Japan, is featured throughout each of Ruth’s chapters. I could not shake the feeling that this particular jungle crow inhabiting Ruth’s island, as she was reading and piecing together the story of this 16-year-old Japanese girl, was actually Nao visiting/protecting/watching Ruth. After finishing, I took the time to look up the jungle crow and came across this fascinating blog about the crow and its meaning in Japanese culture. According to this blog, the crow has a cultural significance of being a protector.
The crow also makes up a part of one of the mythological creatures found in Japanese Shintoism and Buddhism, the Crow Tengu…Tengu protect the Dharma, or Buddhist law against transgressors of the Dharma…Tengu have a variety of supernatural powers that they use to play these tricks on people including: shape-shifting to human or animal forms, speaking without moving their mouths, moving instantly from place to place and being able to invade people’s dreams.
With my every wish, I want A Tale for the Time Being to win the 2013 Man Booker Prize. After completing and posting my initial (gushing love) thoughts about it (and tweeting my love to Ms. Ozeki) I’ve discovered, based on feedback received, that I am so not alone in this wish.