The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Weinstein Books, New York, 2012

Borrowed from my public library.  Short-listed for the 2012 Booker Prize.

In Kuala Lampor, Supreme Court judge Yun Ling Teoh has been slowly loosing her mind.  Wary of her malady becoming evident to others, she takes early retirement and returns to a tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands, owned by family friends.  36 years before, having been released from a Japanese prison camp, she had spent time there.  Traumatised by her sister’s death in the camp and wishing to design a Japanese style garden as a memorial, she is introduced to Aritomo Nakamura, who was once the gardener to the Japanese Emperor.  She asks him to build a garden for her sister.  He refuses, but says he will take her on as an apprentice.   Yun Ling hates the Japanese, but her desire to design a garden in memory of her sister forces her through that hatred.  She stays, and learns to garden.

It is the tangle of history between the Chinese, Japanese, British and Malaysian people, as well as the relationship that grows between Yun Ling and Aritomo, that forms the base of this complex and beautifully written story.  Woven throughout is the history of the land and its people.  Tamn Twan Eng has written a puzzle box of a novel that, in the end,  forces us to question our ideas about memory.

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17 Comments

Filed under Booker, Books, China, Historical Fiction, Japan, Malaya, Thoughts, War

17 responses to “The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

  1. I just finished reading this book today. I agree, it’s a beautifully written story.

  2. I loved this one something very old fashioned in his writing style ,all the best stu

    • You are right about something “Old Fashioned” in his writing style. I am finding I enjoy that kind of style more and more. I think I’m getting tired of ironic and cynical tones in writing.

  3. Sounds intriguing! I will tbr it. Thanks!

  4. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this one. Must add it to my “to read some day” list!

  5. Thanks for your review. It sounds layered and deep. Just wondering, do you think Tan’s style is a bit like Kazuo Ishiguro? Also, just to let you know you’ve been tagged. If you’re interested, come join in. :)

  6. I loved this story too. If you’re interested, my review is here. I think this is a book that I would be able to read again and again and find something new every time. :)

  7. Eva

    Oh I really enjoyed The Gift of Rain, which I think was his debut! I didn’t know he had another book out; I’ll have to see if it’s at my library.

  8. I have a copy and I think I’ll pick it up next. I also enjoy an ‘old fashioned’ style of writing quite often — when I am tired of “noisy” or flashy modern writing ;) And the idea that this story delves into memory intrigues me – one of my favourite themes.

  9. This was one of my favourite books of the year – it was beautifully written and was very finely balanced, something that’s quite difficult to do when writing about emotive issues. Loved it.

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