A Tale For The Time Being – A Review

I have wanted to read ‘A Tale For The Time Being’ by Ruth Ozeki for months. I can’t remember where I first heard about it but I’m glad I did. In my sudden awareness of my white privilege bookshelf, I decided that it was important to me to keep learning post university and I began to pick up books that would teach me about other cultures.

a tale for the time being ruth ozeki review


A Tale For The Time Being is a dual-narration which is necessary since one character locates the diary of the other but also its downfall since the world falls in love with Nao and is less entranced by Ruth. In parts I felt dislike toward Ruth because I felt I had to read of Nao at her pace which was painfully slow. Nao is Tokyo born, moved to California and then moved back to Tokyo where her identity crisis, along with her horrid classmates, ensures her misery. She is witty and dark and bravely unafraid, her writing beautiful. I learned of Japanese culture, history, language and fell in love with her dysfunctional family and inspiring Jiko. She tells us early on that she is a time being and will end her life after she writes Jiko’s story.


Nao taught me about identity and Jiko taught me about life. The characters are all so sure of their knowledge of the others but we learn that that is misguided. I loved the plot, every twist and turn. It was real. I loved the breaks in storyline that throw you back to the war because it was enlightening for me to hear about it. In my opinion, Ruth was a rather uninspiring and unnecessary character. The story starts with Nao and should have ended with Nao. The dream sequence was brave to approach multi-dimensions but fell short of its intention and just caused me to feel fed up with that character.


This book is beautifully written and educated me on Japanese culture, war and tragedy. I really thought about time and identity too. I don’t know if Nao moved on, moved away, got washed away in the tsunami or sits writing at a cafe but I don’t think it matters because her definition of a time being seemed to shift and her life wasn’t a tale for the time being at all; she learned to live for now…it was a tale of Nao.


I highly recommend this book to anyone with a warm heart and an open mind. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I absolutely wish to own a beautiful limited edition hardback version of it some day.

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads and you can follow all future endeavours on there!

H x


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