Review – Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Who comes to your mind when you are asked to think about post-colonial British authors? Close your eyes for a few seconds; think hard; then open your eyes and tell me what you came up with. Hmh, let me think …. Kazuo Ishiguro! Does the name ring a bell? Yes? Excellent! I think it’s time to talk about one of Britain’s most eminent writers. He has won the Booker Prize for The Remains of Day in 1989. Even though his last publication was some time ago, in 2009 to be exact, this does not mean that it’s too late to talk about Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall.

Image provided by Random House¹
Summary quoted from Random House¹:

With the clarity and precision that have become his trademarks, Kazuo Ishiguro interlocks five short pieces of fiction to create a world that resonates with emotion, heartbreak, and humor. Here is a fragile, once famous singer, turning his back on the one thing he loves; a music junky with little else to offer his friends but opinion; a songwriter who inadvertently breaks up a marriage; a jazz musician who thinks the answer to his career lies in changing his physical appearance; and a young cellist whose tutor has devised a remarkable way to foster his talent. For each, music is a central part of their lives and, in one way or another, delivers them to an epiphany.

My Thoughts:

Nocturnes is Ishiguro’s first collection of short stories and consists of five parts: “Crooner”, “Come Rain or Come Shine”, “Malvern Hills”, “Nocturne” and “Cellist”. What bind the stories together are recurring themes and characters which are all tightly connected with music, musicians and music lovers. They are all written in prose style and every story has its own delightful and charming twist.

Basically, Nocturnes tells the story of people who have not yet fulfilled their dreams, about people who live ordinary lives and about the sacrifices they have to make every day. We all have a vision of who we are, but very often the world does not allow us to fulfill your dreams. All the characters in Nocturnes struggle with their lives; some get it right, some get it wrong, but they all have to overcome obstacles. I guess this is what makes the book so attractive to us normal ones. It shows that fictional characters are not superheroes after all.

When I got hold of Nocturnes, I expected to really love this collection and I have to admit that I found it wonderful in parts. It would be a lie to claim that Nocturnes is absolutely superb, because there are a few flaws in the novel. But all in all, it’s a nice and entertaining read for everyone who likes humorous, cynical and serious stories.



Review – A Tale for the Time Being

As I’ve already told you a few days ago, I finished a book that took me a while to read. This book is A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, which is currently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I had a copy on my bookshelf from my Book Depository win this spring, so I decided to give it a go.

A Tale For The Time Being
Image provided by Canongate¹
Summary quoted from Canongate¹:

‘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.

My Thoughts:

A Tale for the Time Being is mostly set in the 21st century in Japan and Canada. The dominance of the setting changes with the location. The island where Ruth lives felt very clear to me. However, this could be because I’ve already been to British Columbia and Vancouver Island and know what the landscape looks like. But also the temple in Japan and its surroundings were clear, in contrast to Tokyo, which seemed blurry to me. Ms. Ozeki also uses the weather to create and intensify mood especially in Ruth’s chapters. I really like this concept.

The two main characters are Nao and Ruth. Even though Nao is 16 years old, she often acts like she is 14 or younger but on the other hand, she does things that (in my opinion) don’t fit her childish behavior. Well, let’s say, Nao has problems, which is hardly surprising if you read her story. Nevertheless, Nao’s character wasn’t always very believable throughout the book. I preferred Ruth. Her character seems to lead a steady life, but if you take a closer look, it isn’t all roses. Ruth is fascinated by Nao’s diary and wants to know all about that girl from Japan. I was really able to connect with Ruth, at least until the last few pages. Two other characters that I think were great are Nao’s father Haruki and Nao’s great-grandmother Jiko.

Now on to the hardest part (at least for me). The story. For the first ~125 pages, I had massive problems getting into the book. I was thinking about giving up on reading, because I didn’t care what was going to happen to Nao or to anyone else in the book. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I hardly give up on a book. So I read on and it did get better. I finally wanted to know about Nao’s (and her father’s) fate. Sometimes, I even felt distracted by Ruth’s story between Nao’s passages. But there were still things that I didn’t like. There was too much talk of Zen Buddhism in the book and, unfortunately, the book started to get quite boring again towards the end (even though I like the main idea of the ending). Maybe A Tale for the Time Being just wasn’t meant for a time being like me.