An Author is distracted from writing her own novel and becomes obsessed by the diary of a sixteen-year-old Japanese girl that she finds washed up on a beach near her home in Canada.
I had planned to read all of the shortlisted titles for the Man Booker 2013 awards but you will have to make do with two out of five. I have already reviewed The Testament of Mary.
I finished this book about two weeks ago and have had much difficulty in approaching the review; not because I did not enjoy it, on the contrary because there are so many layers that belie the 422 actual pages of the book.
What is it about? If I could sum it up in one word it is about ‘belonging’ and how that fits with our place in family, society and the world. But it is also about elevated teenage angst, Buddism, relationships between children, parents, grandparents and within marriages, a Jungle Crow, Japanese culture, notions of honour and suicide, a sixty year old watch, philosophy, horrendous on and offline bullying, displacement, a cat, alienation, ecology, and bad internet connections.
Ozeki structures the novel in alternate chapters so that we get to know the two main characters Nao, the young frustrated Japanese diarist and Ruth the increasing unsatisfied novelist as she reads the diary which is written as if Nao is speaking directly to her as a confident. It may seem packed with themes from my description above but Ozeki manages to weave them together into such a seamless narrative that you might not even realise that you have digested particular messages themes until, like me and sometime later, you are standing in a queue for a bank and one arrives without warning.
This is an excellent example of what writer’s block can produce.
Everyone should read it.