The Garden of Evening Mists, Hardback
4 out of 5 (3 ratings)


SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2012. Malaya, 1949. After studying law at Cambrige and time spent helping to prosecute Japanese war criminals, Yun Ling Teoh, herself the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle fringed plantations of Northern Malaya where she grew up as a child.

There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the Emperor of Japan.

Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in Kuala Lumpur, in memory of her sister who died in the camp.

Aritomo refuses, but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice 'until the monsoon comes'.

Then she can design a garden for herself. As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to her sensei and his art while, outside the garden, the threat of murder and kidnapping from the guerrillas of the jungle hinterland increases with each passing day.

But the Garden of Evening Mists is also a place of mystery.

Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan?Why is it that Yun Ling's friend and host Magnus Praetorius, seems to almost immune from the depredations of the Communists?

What is the legend of 'Yamashita's Gold' and does it have any basis in fact? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?




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Review by

This story begins on the last day of Teoh Yun Ling's career as a Supreme Court justice in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur in the mid 1980s. Yun Ling has had, by every measure, a remarkable and successful life despite extreme hardship and loss. She was born to privilege, as a member of a wealthy Straits Chinese family, but at the age of 17 she and her older sister Yun Hong were captured by Japanese soldiers and taken to a prison camp hidden within the jungle of the Malayan Peninsula. The prisoners were brutally tortured there, and only one survived at the end of the war: Yun Ling.After she completes her law studies in England, she returns to Malaysia to practice, serving as a prosecutor for the Malayan government in the trials of captured Japanese Army soldiers. Her sister's death continues to haunt her, and she decides to honor her sister's memory by building a Japanese garden, as Yun Hong loved them dearly. In 1951 she returns to the home of a family friend, Magnus Pretorius, a South African tea planter in Cameron Highlands in the Malayan state of Pahang, whose friend Nakamura Aritomo is a highly regarded gardener—and the former chief gardener to Emperor Hirohito of Japan. Yun Ling struggles to overcome her deep hatred of the Japanese, and works under Aritomo as an apprentice, helping him to rebuild his own garden while learning the craft from him. However, the tranquil mountainous setting also hosts the Malayan National Liberation Army, a group of communist guerrilla soldiers who are at war with the colonial government during the Malayan Emergency. Colonists such as Pretorius are frequent targets of the guerrillas, subject to robbery, assault and murder, but Yun Ling is also at great risk, as she also prosecuted captured guerrillas after the war trials had concluded, and the communists in the area are aware of her presence there. As Yun Ling becomes closer to Aritomo, she learns more about the hidden roles he assumed during the Japanese occupation, as she seeks to discover what happened to the other prisoners in the camp, and to achieve closure and inner peace with herself, her family and with him.The novel is filled with numerous additional characters, story lines and themes, which delicately intersect and overlap each other. Certain seemingly insignificant events in the early and middle sections of the book become clearer as the book progresses, as Eng masterfully creates a story that requires close attention from the reader, similar to that which is necessary to understand and appreciate the finer aspects of a Japanese garden. <i>The Garden of Evening Mists</i> is an almost indescribably beautiful, rich and rewarding novel with multiple layers that are expertly weaved into a coherent work of art. Tan Twan Eng deserves to be commended for this astonishing work, which would be a worthy winner of this year's Booker Prize.

Review by

Beautiful story about a woman who was taken prisoner by the Japanese in the second world war and how she eventually comes to terms with what happened to her through a promise she gave to her sister.

Review by

This is a 3 . Quite a mix of WWII, Malaysia, Japanese gardening, tatoos, Chinese vs. Japanese, dementia, empire.