Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. 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 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 the gardener and his art, while all around them a communist guerilla war rages. But the Garden of Evening Mists remains a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?
About Tan Twan Eng
Tan Twan Eng was born in Penang, Malaysia, but lived in various places in Malaysia as a child. He worked as an Intellectual Property lawyer before resigning from his position to write his novel, The Gift of Rain. His second novel, The Garden of Evening Mists, will be published in the United Kingdom in February 2012. The Gift of Rain was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, and has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Greek, Romanian, Czech and Serbian. Tan Twan Eng lives in Cape Town where he is working on his third novel.
After a notable debut, Eng (The Gift of Rain, 2008) returns to the landscape of his origins with a poetic, compassionate, sorrowful novel set in the aftermath of World War II in Malaya, where the conflict was followed by a bloody guerilla war of independence. Chinese-Malayan Judge Teoh Yun Ling, who witnessed these events when younger, has been diagnosed with aphasia, which will shortly strip her of her mind and memory. So she returns to Yugiri, in the mountains, to record her memories of the place she visited 34 years earlier to persuade ex-Imperial Japanese gardener Aritomo to make a garden in memory of her sister. The sisters had spent four years in a horrific Japanese slave labor camp, sustained by memories of the gardens of Kyoto. Aritomo turns down Yun Ling’s request; instead she becomes his apprentice, then lover. Aritomo is an enigmatic figure, steeped in art and wisdom, perhaps also a spy. Only years later, when Yun Ling finally pieces together his last message to her, can she reconcile her grief and guilt as the sole survivor of the slave camp. – Kirkus Reviews
Making Arrangements - ‘The Garden of Evening Mists,’ by Tan Twan Eng
The New York Times Book Review – August 31, 2012 (Excerpt)
IF you’ve never seen one, it’s almost impossible to capture the mesmerizing allure of a classic Japanese garden — and even standing for the first time in front of a bed of raked gravel can be a challenge. No vivid colors. No sweeping borders. No topiary animals. No shooting fountains. No fun, it would seem. Still, the traditional Japanese garden, esoteric as it is, has an ancient and undeniable appeal. It’s about secrets, perspectives, initiation, memory and time. It may take ages for a Japanese garden to come to maturity, to say nothing of the gardener. And yet, for all its mystery, the Japanese garden reveals itself as a capacious symbol of the human soul, replete with exactly the kinds of “borrowed landscapes” we live with. But we call them our personal histories.
The crucial action in “The Garden of Evening Mists,” a strong, quiet novel by Tan Twan Eng, a Malaysian writer who now lives part of the year in Cape Town, takes place in Malaya just after World War II. The beautiful garden referred to in the title plays host to the intertwining of several lives at a period cursed with being, so the saying goes, an “interesting time.” As the story begins, decades later, Judge Yun Ling Teoh, the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court that sits in Kuala Lumpur, is retiring from the bench. In late middle age, she has been given a terrible diagnosis: she will soon lose her memory, indeed all cognitive function. She has unfinished business with the past, so the approaching obliteration of her mind sends her back, urgently, to a time she has done her best to repress. [Read the full article...]
“The Garden of Evening Mists” Tan Twan Eng
The Washington Post Book Review – October 5, 2012 (Excerpt)
Soon after the ravages of World War II, Malaya was wracked by a communist guerrilla insurgency, which was eventually put down in 1960. Tan Twan Eng, whose first book, “The Gift of Rain,” was received with critical acclaim, here examines those years in a complex society that includes Chinese, South African Dutch and English as well as aborigines. “The Garden of Evening Mists,” a finalist for this year’s Man Booker Prize, plumbs the basics of human nature as it asks how we can commit so many atrocities in a time of war and, at the same time, create compelling, transcendent works of art.
The plot is fascinating and, of course, complex. The story is told by Yun Ling Teoh, an older woman of great dignity, whom we first see as she retires from a dozen years on the Malayan Supreme Court to return to the Cameron Highlands, the tropical rain forest where she grew up. It’s a remote and beautiful region filled with tea plantations and the country’s only Japanese garden. From this point, we read a series of flashbacks: first World War II and then the 12 years of the Malayan Emergency, from 1948 to 1960. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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