The Book of Form and Emptiness (Paperback)Ruth Ozeki (author)
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As everyday objects start talking to fourteen-year-old Benny in the wake of a family bereavement, he seeks refuge in a library populated by unforgettable characters in this breathtakingly original and compassionate novel from the author of A Tale for the Time Being.
Winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2022
After the tragic death of his beloved musician father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house - a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn't understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, a gentle hum or coo, but others are snide, angry and full of pain. When his mother develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.
At first Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house, onto the street and at school, driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library, where objects are well-behaved and know to speak in whispers. There, he falls in love with a mesmerising street artist with a smug pet ferret, who uses the library as her performance space. He meets a homeless philosopher-poet, who encourages him to ask important questions and find his own voice amongst the many.
And he meets his very own Book - a talking thing - who narrates Benny's life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.
The Book of Form and Emptiness blends unforgettable characters, riveting plot and vibrant engagement with everything from jazz to climate change to our attachment to material possessions. This is classic Ruth Ozeki - bold, humane and heartbreaking.
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
Number of pages: 560
Weight: 371 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 33 mm
'This compassionate novel of life, love and loss glows in the dark. Its strange, beautiful pages turn themselves. If you've lost your way with fiction over the last year or two, let The Book of Form and Emptiness light your way home' - David Mitchell
'The Book of Form and Emptiness is a big, polyphonic, often comic, magical-realist collage of a novel that attempts to interrogate the most pressing issues of the age ... at its heart is a compelling story of human connection and the redemptive power of art ... Ozeki is a talented storyteller' - The Guardian
'Heart-breaking and heart-healing - a book to not only keep us absorbed but also to help us think and love and live and listen. No one writes quite like Ruth Ozeki and The Book of Form and Emptiness is a triumph.' - Matt Haig
'There's powerful magic here ... Ozeki is unusually patient with her characters, even the rebarbative ones, and she is able to record the subtle peculiarities of other classes of beings that more overeager writers would probably miss ... Ozeki gives us a metaphor for our very own American consumption disorder, our love-hate relationship with the stuff we produce and can't let go of' - The New York Times Book Review
'This is both an extremely vivid picture of a small family enduring unimaginable loss, and a very powerful meditation on the way books can contain the chaos of the world and give it meaning and order. Annabelle and Benny Oh try to stay afloat in a sea of things, news, substances, technological soullessness and psychiatric quagmires, and the way they learn to live and breathe and even swim through it all feels like the struggle we all face. The Book of Form and Emptiness builds on the themes of A Tale for the Time Being, and ratifies Ozeki as one of our era's most compassionate and original minds' - Dave Eggers
'Once again, Ozeki has created a masterpiece. Her generous heart, remarkable imagination and brilliant mind light up every page' - Karen Joy Fowler
'Storytelling rarely comes more capacious than Ruth Ozeki's latest novel ... Ozeki interconnects zen philosophy, the environmental crisis, a critique of our mass consumer lifestyle and a playful post-modern sensibility - one of the characters is a talking book - within a novel that, for all its wide-ranging intellectual restlessness, remains grounded in its characters' emotional reality' - The Daily Mail
'Moving ... Ozeki has considerable storytelling energies' - The Financial Times
'Ozeki's prose is warm and welcoming, but as you turn the pages you'll see that she carries her pen to dark places. Her characters ask What is a self, what should we hold onto, what to do when the whole world hurts? And yet even in this darkness, she finds hope. Ozeki reminds me of a literary bower bird, taking interesting things from across traditions and continents, all to make this intricate nest for us, her readers' - Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
'This is a novel that manages to be deeply profound about human connection, but does so with the lightest of touches' - Big Issue
Praise for A Tale for the Time Being:
'This is one of the most deeply moving and thought-provoking novels I have read in a long time. In precise and luminous prose, Ozeki captures both the sweep and detail of our shared humanity, moving seamlessly between Nao's story and our own' - Madeline Miller
'A triumph . . . Ozeki explores what it means to be human in this moment, right now (Nao). Her novel is saturated with love, ideas and compassion. In short, an absolute treat' - Sunday Times
'A Tale for the Time Being is a timeless story. Ruth Ozeki beautifully renders not only the devastation of the collision between man and the natural world, but also the often miraculous results of it. She is a deeply intelligent and humane writer who offers her insights with a grace that beguiles. I truly love this novel' - Alice Sebold
'Ingenious and touching, A Tale for the Time Being is also highly readable. And interesting: the contrast of cultures is especially well done' - Philip Pullman
'A beautifully interwoven novel about magic and loss and the incomprehensible threads that connect our lives. I just finished it, and loved it' - Elizabeth Gilbert
'Funny, heartbreaking, moving and profound . . . The warmth, compassion, wisdom and insight with which Ozeki pieces all these stories together will have the reader linked in a similarly profound way to this fantastic novel' - Independent
'A Tale for the Time Being is equal parts mystery and meditation. The mystery is a compulsive, gritty page-turner. The meditation - on time and memory, on the oceanic movement of history, on impermanence and uncertainty, but also resilience and bravery - is deep and gorgeous and wise. A completely satisfying, continually surprising, wholly remarkable achievement, this is a book to be read and reread' - Karen Joy Fowler
'A huge, compassionate and cleverly wrought novel' - Times Literary Supplement
'Packed with philosophical asides about time, and is unexpectedly moving' - The Times
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“The Book of Form and Emptiness”
What an incredible book. I saw a review somewhere from David Mitchell that said something like if you have lost your way with fiction recently, this book will help you find it again, and I agree with that - although... More
“I missed these characters within minutes of finishing the book!”
In 'The Book of Form and Emptiness' Ruth Ozeki has created a world of characters that I care for as though they were real people, and if the book's own message is to be believed, there is nothing wrong... More
The Book of Form & Emptiness is a long book that requires your full attention and commitment. And it repays you 10 times your effort. It is heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. The writing is utterly... More
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