The Tone…

Do you know what makes up a huge part of someone’s personality as they stand before you, talking to you?

Let’s say you’ve never come across this person…like maybe you’ve just met her at a party or at your mom’s friend’s sibling’s house… and all of a sudden this person turns to you and then you guys start making small talk.

What would first strike you about the person once she/he opens her/his mouth?

There is beauty and… there is beauty.  

There is beauty that blinds you from the very moment you lay your eyes on the person…and you then claim yourself to be in love at the first sight. This person’s beauty is not a matter of opinion but is a fact. And to argue about it is ridiculous.

There is beauty that is not a fact…but a matter of opinion and personal tastes.  

There is beauty that  at first, does not blind you, does not move you… but binds you only with time and shared moments…and then you claim to the person “You are beautiful in my eyes.” This is the kind of beauty that would only manifest itself to exclusive family members and close friends. This kind of beauty is private, precious. Too personal.  [I always think that everybody is beautiful…you just need to look closely. And you will only bother to look closely enough (or have the opportunity to do so) if you are their friends. There will be moments when you realize, “oh, she is quite pretty!”]

But let’s get back to the person you met at your mom’s friend’s sibling’s house. And this person’s beauty is not something you notice right away because her sort of beauty is the personal kind, the kind only a small number of people would notice. What else would you notice about her? I mean, as she speaks. (let’s assume we’re talking about a female here)

It’s her tone of voice.

Its the way she speaks, the way she spaces her words and sentences, the way her face moves as she emphasizes her words, the way her eyes light up or dull depending on the subject under discussion.

That’s why sometimes, you can only notice some people’s beauty as they open their mouth and speak.

Tone In A Novel:

Style 1:

I don’t know what should I do now that matters have come to such an abrupt, unceremonious end. Should I call her? Should I go to her house and …do what? Or I could just do nothing. I am good at doing nothing.  Yes, I could do nothing, couldn’t I?

Style 2:

I don’t know what should I do.. now that matters have come to such an abrupt, unceremonious end. Should I call her? Should I go to her house and …do what?

Or I could just do nothing.

I am good at doing nothing. 

Yes, I could do nothing…

Couldn’t I?

The exact same words in both styles. But the tone is different…it’s in the way the words are italized/emphasized, and also in the way the sentences are paragraphed.

I could not say which style is superior than the other because both of them would serve different function depending on the writer’s intention.

Tone In A Person:

Some people are serious. When these people tell jokes, you only realize it as they arrive to their punch line. And when you FINALLY got the joke, you are first surprised, and then it finally occurs to you that “oh, she’s joking”, and then you realize that yes, the joke is so damn funny, but it’s just so unexpected because it comes from the serious people. You could not believe it, you were unprepared for it. Then it finally dawns on you… And ONLY THEN, you laugh. No, you don’t just laugh. You really, really laugh because it’s so DAMN funny! Funny AND unexpected…a potent combination.  In fact, you not only laugh but you guffaw and you just may roll on the floor at the sheer hilarity of it all.

But there are other people who are always cracking jokes. Whenever they open their mouth (even when they are not trying to make a joke) you will find yourselves smiling anyway. Because these people have such effect on you that you are just quite certain that whatever it is that spills out from these people’s mouth would be funny. You keep expecting … waiting… anticipating…  for the punch line. And three seconds before the punch line arrives, you are already smiling. And two seconds before the punch line arrives, you are grinning. And one second before the punch line arrives, you are still grinning, but this time, really broadly. Even when you are not yet sure what the joke is really about, you still smile. And when the punch line finally comes, you laugh out loud.

Both type of people are pleasant. It depends on your personal taste who you like to hang around with the most. I like both…but personally, I prefer the latter.

But there is also another type of people….whose tone is always subdued, always too restraint, and too serious. That even when they are talking about something funny, it turns out to be…less funny than it would have been. Oh, it’s still funny, but the merriment is stunted, the joy is minimal and the laughter lasts for mere seconds. You get the feeling that, this person is not lively enough to carry the joke off the way it is supposed to be.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

I am the sort of person who likes books that have a lively tone. I like to read a book that causes my heart to smile even as I read about the scenery…the scenery is not funny, it’s just that the whole tone is lively that I would just smile anyway. (that should explain the smiling lines on my face. I have been smiling too much)

I like a book that makes me anticipate happiness, even when I know that there will be (of course, there must be) conflicts, difficulties, hardships and trials. A book that, as it describes the pain, it gives me hope anyway.

You know, a cheerful tone.

Or, at least, like Khaled Hosseini’s natural way of description…not melancholy, not lively…it’s just one hell of a description. So that when you get to the funny part, you REALLY laugh and when you get to the sad part, your eyes tear up. And when you get to the moment in between (when it’s neither sad nor funny) you are just able to enjoy the description as it is. You are neither feeling melancholic nor happy at those moment in between.

But with The Time Traveler’s Wife…it has a sad tone. Even when it is  describing some great, happy moments…I could feel a sort of despair, a moment of dread that this happiness would not last. You know, a melancholic tone.

Oh, there are funny parts, there are happy parts, just as there are sad parts. But the constant background tone is that of sadness.

So as I read The Time Traveler’s Wife, I was always preparing myself to be sad. That I became sad…but I just could not cry. And when the happy parts arrive, I knew I was happy, but I could not laugh because I was still prepared to cry. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about the author of this superbly done novel. In fact, I have nothing else but praises to heap on this novel. The plot was original, it was cleverly done. I mean, not many people can write a story about time-travel and not muddle up the whole process with unnecessary confusions. In terms of plot and clarity, this novel deserves an A plus plus.  In terms of language, it is moderately poetic, and greatly enjoyable.

It’s just the tone….

Just that.

But then, that tone is suitable for that theme…because it is supposed to be sad. I am just saying that it does not agree with my taste…but that does not mean it is a bad novel.

What I am saying is, in terms of plot, it is fantasstic (it’s a fact, and not a matter of opinion). But in terms of tone, it is suitable for the plot but it would be more enjoyable if it is done in a much happier tone (and this is just a matter of opinion).

But this book is still enjoyable. I would definitely keep it on my bookshelf. The fact that I bother to write a review at all (despite the fact that the tone does not agree with me) is testimonial enough of how good the plot is. 

And I also learn something from this book…which is always reason enough to like a book. 

Would I recommend this book? Oh yes! It’s a must read. 

I enjoyed it while I read it. And that is surely a lot more than we can say about heaps other novels.  

And to Kak Long…I was prepared to praise your good sense for recommending this book to me. But I guess, I have to praise Abg Faiz, instead. Hahahha. Next time, don’t try to cut your losses a little too soon. Because you might have gained, instead. (really clever parting words from me, n’est ce-pas?) 

2 thoughts on “The Tone…

  1. Nia Azalea

    i tried to post a comment on wanita hari ini. basically saying that i SECRETLY agree with hana regarding ure writing etc.

    there is nothing i’d like more than having a serious competition from you dude.

    come to think of it, we used to write and compare stuff….remember???

    i understand what u mean by the tone of the book. TOTALLY get it! But what i think The Time Traveller’s Wife gotta offer is, like you said…the originality!


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