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?
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 448 pages
- Publisher: Myrmidon Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 02/11/2011
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781905802623
Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.
Review by writestuff
Review by DubaiReader
"For what is a person without memories?".I had heard so much positive feedback about this book that I was thrilled when my book group chose it as this month's read. Unfortunately I didn't really click with the narrative. I found it rather disjointed, with several names used for each character, a lack of continuity and an inconclusive ending. In spite of this I will admit to enjoying some wonderful moments within the book.The narrator is Yun Ling Teoh, who has survived as prisoner of the Jaspanese on Malaysia during WWII. She became a judge to bring justice for the many victims, but is now succuming to a degenerative disease and must leave her job. She determines to fulfil a promise she made to her older sister many years before.Her sister loved the beautiul simplicity of Japanese gardens and so Yun Ling approaches the exiled Japanese gardener, Arimoto, to design a garden in her sister's honour. Arimoto declines the commission but offers her an apprenticeship in his own garden.The garden was what I enjoyed most about this book, it had such a tranquil feel, I was wandering through it with the characters."He turned to me, touching the side of his head lightly. At that moment it struck me that he was similar to the boulders on which we had spent the entire morning working. Only a small portion was revealed to the world, the rest was buried deep from view. (Loc 1429).The other fascinating part of the book was the detail of the life in the concentration camp under the Japanese and the strange maze of tunnels that the prisoners were forever digging.Then, of course there was the cultural aspect, the tatoos, the wood block paintings and the archery.Thinking back, I wonder if I wouldn't enjoy this book more on a second reading, maybe one of these days I will tackle it again and upgrade my star rating.
Review by sianpr
A beautiful book. The use of language in this story will stay with me for a long time. This is a complex and multilayered story dealing with war, relationships, gardening and coming to terms (or not) with traumatic life events.
Review by SandDune
Teoh Yun Ling takes early retirement from her position as a Supreme Court Judge in the Malaysia of the 1980's to return to the garden of Yugiri in the Cameron Highlands: a place which had a pivotal role in her life but one that she had not visited for the last thirty-six years. A demanding and often abrasive woman, used to keeping lawyers in order from her position on the bench, Yun Ling is not easy to warm to: her one close friend is Frederik Pretorius, the South-African owner of the neighbouring Majuba Tea Estate. And it is to him that she discloses the true reason for her early retirement: she has been diagnosed with an incurable degenerative disease which means that soon she will start to lose her memories and the very faculty for language itself. Faced with the prospect of forgetting everything that makes her what she is, events that she has tried for most of the life to suppress come to the surface, in particular her time in a Japanese prison camp during the Second World War, a camp in which her older sister died, and from which Yun Ling was the only survivor.The book focuses on Yun Long's first visit to the Cameron Highlands in 1951, when she first visited the garden of Yugiri. Created by Nakamura Arimoto, a Japanese man who was once a gardener to the Emperor, it is a traditional Japanese garden created in the Highlands of Malaya. Yun Ling travels to the Highlands to ask Aritomo to design a garden in memory of her dead sister, who had been a lover of Japanese gardens, but her hatred of the Japanese make their first dealings very difficult. Initially turning down her request, Aritomo then proposes that Yun Ling become his apprentice until the monsoon starts so that she will be able to develop her garden herself. And this is what she does, living alone despite the threat of the communist insurgency which is raging in the Malayan countryside. And as the older Yun Ling looks back upon her time in the garden so many years ago, she starts to remember and to consider the true meaning of the events in her life, both from the time spent in the garden, and from her time as a prisoner of the Japanese.This is a beautiful book, which has a very appropriate epigraph:There is a goddess of Memory, Mnemosyne; but none of Forgetting. Yet there should be, as they are twin sisters, twin powers, and walk on either side of us, disputing for sovereignty over us and who we are, all the way until deathand it is the human desire to both remember and to forget that is at the heart of this book.I found great interest in the setting as well as the story, as it dealt with a location and period that I knew little about: Malaya (as it then was) during and after the Second World War. While I suppose I was reasonably familiar with the fall of Singapore to the Japanese and its aftermath for the British prisoners of war, including women and children, I'd never really considered the situation for non-British inhabitants of the area. And I certainly knew nothing of the communist insurgency after the war. (Mr SandDune of course did, and proceeded to give me a brief description of it, and its knock-on effect on the Vietnamese War)So my first five star read of the year: one which I think I could read again and again and continue to see connections which I had missed at first. I'd strongly recommend this to anyone who hasn't already read it.