Friday, October 30, 2015

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Paperback: 352  pages                                                                                                        
Genre: Historical Fiction, Malaysian Literature
Publisher: Canongate Books May 2013
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan.
Favourite Quote: Memory is like patches of sunlight in an overcast valley, shifting with the movement of the clouds. Now and then the light will fall on a particular point in time, illuminating it for a moment before the wind seals up the gap, and the world is in shadows again.
Review Quote: "Complex and powerful . . . sophisticated and satisfying" (Sunday Times)
Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize Nominee (2012), International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist (2014), Man Asian Literary Prize (2012), Walter Scott Prize (2013)
My Opinion: A great read with evocative descriptions of the surroundings. A very moving and haunting novel. Highly recommend to anyone that enjoys a really good story.

' The Garden of Evening Mists' Précis Courtesy of Goodreads

It's Malaya, 1949. After studying law at Cambridge 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 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?

Author Profile

Tan Twan Eng

Tan Twan Eng was born in 1972 in Penang, but lived in various places in Malaysia as a child. He studied law at the University of London and later worked as lawyer in one of Kuala Lumpur’s most reputable law firms. He also has a first-dan ranking in aikido and is a strong proponent for the conservation of heritage buildings.

Tan Twan Eng talked about his background, his second novel, and his writing process in a May 2012 interview live-tweeted by BooksLiveSA from a literary festival in Franschhoek, South Africa. His hometown is Penang, Malaysia, and he received a law degree there. He said being a lawyer helped him be organized, disciplined, and meticulous, and that lawyers have to craft stories. While he grew up with Malay, Hokkien, and English spoken at home, the author said he thinks and dreams in English. Currently he writes full time, splitting his time between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Cape Town, South Africa. His first novel, The Gift of Rain, set in Penang during World War II was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007. His second novel, The Garden of Evening Mists (2012), which opens just after World War II, is written from the perspective of a female judge and involves three cultures: Malay, Japanese, and South African. The author says his third novel will be set in China.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Amazon Author Profile  Goodreads Author Profile   Facebook - Tan Twan Eng

Tan Twan Eng - Author Website    Wikipedia - Tan Twan Eng


  1. What a lovely title - it captures beautiful images. Sounds like an interesting story. Thanks for sharing. Hope all is well in your neck of the woods.

    1. All well here thanks Ann. This is well worth reading if the period and part of the world it is set in interest you.

  2. This sounds like a wonderful book. I will put it on my book list! Thank you for sharing it. Wishing you a happy week. x Karen


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