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The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
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The Garden of Evening Mists

by Tan Twan Eng

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,1078011,147 (4.1)1 / 464
  1. 10
    The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (CGlanovsky)
  2. 00
    The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (M_Clark)
    M_Clark: The Gift of Rain is the first book by Tan Twan Eng and is actually much better than The Garden of Evening Mists
  3. 00
    Black Oxen by Elizabeth Knox (lottpoet)
  4. 00
    The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Non-linear storytelling. Post-colonial novel. Deals with a period of political unrest.
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English (79)  Finnish (1)  All languages (80)
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
I listened to this book and found it difficult to follow. It moves back and forth in time and I often wasn't sure where in the story (time wise)I was listening. Maybe reading the hard copy would be easier.

The story is based in World War II Japanese occupation of Malaysia. This part of history is interesting and the story uses the complexities well.

I am still not sure how I feel about this story and will withhold ratings for now. ( )
  yhgail | Feb 20, 2019 |
Supreme Court judge Teoh Yun Ling was the sole survivor of a Japanese prisoner of war camp; everyone else, including her sister, was abused and raped and then killed, bodies put in a mass grave. After becoming a lawyer and then judge, she prosecuted the Japanese soldiers that could still be found in Kuala Lumpur. Now she is retiring, because of a creeping case of dementia and aphasia. Her story covers the time before the war, when she and her sister visited Japan and saw the gardens her sister fell in love with, but mostly settles after the war, when Yun Ling decides to have a Japanese garden created in memory of her sister. At the urging of Magnus Pratorius, a South African expat tea farmer, she meets Nakamura Aritomo, who was once Emperor Hirohito’s head gardener until he exiled himself. He refuses to take the commission, but says he will take Yun Ling on as an apprentice and she can learn through doing how to create a garden herself. Surprisingly, given her hatred for the Japanese, she accepts. She is to help develop Yugiri, the garden of the evening mists, the still point within a country roiling with guerilla violence.

While there are some violent events, such as the guerilla rebellion that leaves many of the colonists dead, most of the story about small things. The learning of how to borrow scenery in a garden, the art of setting stone, learning archery. It is about Yun Ling and Aritomo’s developing relationship. Yun Ling’s narration is oddly flat; is this because of the aphasia? Does she have PTSD? The dialog is often stilted. The story moves very slowly; it’s very heavy on descriptions. It jumps around in time. Aritomo, the most important person in the story other than Yun Ling, never comes to life. It’s weird; the book was annoying in ways but also oddly compelling and very, very beautiful. I often thought “Will this story ever end?” but still could not even think about putting it down. Four stars. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Dec 22, 2018 |
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng is a beautifully written novel that the author wisely allows to unfold slowly as the main character comes to terms with her painful history and looks forward to her uncertain future. Supreme Court judge Teoh Yun Ling has retired from the bench and returned to the Cameron Highlands. She reflects upon her personal history in a series of flashbacks and we slowly are made aware of the interesting relationship she had with Nakamura Aritomo, the Japanese gardener who came to the Malaysian highlands and built Yugiri, the garden of evening mists.

When she first arrived in the Cameron Highlands it was 1951 and there was a great deal of turmoil and communist guerrilla activity in the area. She stays with friends at a large tea growing estate, but her mission is clear. She survived a Japanese prisoner of war camp and her beloved sister did not. Even hating all things Japanese, she wishes to hire the gardener to design a Japanese garden in her sister’s honor. Instead of agreeing, he in turn offers to teach her how to build the garden herself and for the next couple of years she works as his assistant and becomes his lover, and eventually his canvas.

While the story was intriguing and wonderfully written, I found this book was a little to ponderous, the dialogue too structured, and the characters too reflective for me to totally embrace this story. I had previously read the author’s The Gift of Rain and found it far more accessible. The exotic setting and mystical aspects of the art and culture that the author built The Garden of Evening Mists around helped to make this both dark and atmospheric yet I was always very aware of how carefully the book was constructed. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Sep 9, 2018 |
A Man Booker finalist and a winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize must be pretty good, right? Wrong. This torturous, unbelievably slow book presumably about a lone survivor of a Japanese war camp who finds peace in an isolated Japanese garden (the only one in Malaya). The survivor, Yun Ling, seeks out the gardener who created it in order to build a garden as a memorial for her deceased sister.

The book then takes a really long time to get anywhere or say anything. Yun Ling negotiates her relationship with the gardener (Aritomo), we learn about his background, what happened to Yun Ling at the camp, why she's building this garden for her sister, etc. It crawls, it hides behind the "beautiful" language (WHY do so many reviews describe this book so???), it just doesn't do anything.

As far as I can tell it wasn't translated into English which I initially thought might have been part of the problem. This just isn't a good book and I'm baffled as the high ratings. None of the characters are all that interesting or necessarily even likeable. In itself likeability certainly isn't something I need but it's puzzled me as to what exactly appeals to people about this book.

As you can see this really wasn't for me and I'd recommend skipping it. It's been a book I've had for years but finally decided to read it since I guess I was in a historical fiction mood. Definitely wasn't worth buying and this is not an author I'd try again (apparently this is his second book and I even looked into his first book for reading). Tells me that sometimes awards committees have no idea what they're doing. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
This book was not bad at all. The first few chapters made me doubt its quality but once I got into it, I enjoyed it for what it was trying to do instead of feeling annoyed at its flaws, so I guess it won me over.

The garden of evening mists deals with Yun Ling Teoh, a retired Malaysian judge who retreats to her dilapidated Japanese garden somewhere in the highlands to contemplate her life and settle her affairs in anticipation of sudden early-onset aphasia. As a result, large parts of the book are about the protagonist’s earlier experiences in the region, in the 1950s, when she struck up a hesitant mentor-apprentice relationship with a wealthy Japanese man, who is ever so slowly constructing the garden the book is named after. That relation is hesitant and complicated, because it carries too many connotations of her World War 2 years spent tortured and exploited in a Japanese internment camp. These sections also contain more traditionally exciting elements, such as violent Communist militias and rumors of hidden Nazi Japanese gold.

Tan Twan Eng does a good job of bringing his readers along while he explores the themes and the relationships that such a setup provides him with. At times, though, the writing leaves something to be desired, especially in the early chapters: Eng tends to over-write his descriptive passages, in the sense that he crams in too many details and tries too hard with the unconventional verbs ("Hens trailing lines of yolky chicks"; "Lightning convulsed over the mountains"; "[the mountains] had broken out of the earth three hundred miles away"). But the novel’s qualities more than outweigh its negatives, and I found sticking with it soon rewarded the effort. ( )
  Petroglyph | Nov 29, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
The language is as lush as the landscape he seeks to describe. His prose is punctuated with clever imagery; in reuniting with Teoh, Eng brilliantly describes Frederick's wry reaction "A smile skims across his face, capsizing an instant later."

Though on the whole the descriptive narrative was attractive, at times more concision might have saved it from becoming overwrought, as in my view it was, and rather frustratingly holding back what was otherwise a compelling and unique story.
 
As in his first novel, The Gift of Rain, Tan employs exotic settings and mystical aspects of Japanese culture to drive his narrative. But this time the effect is darker. Aritomo's mastery of the art of shakkei - "Borrowed Scenery" - initially seems enlightened, but as we come to question his true motives for absconding to this obscure backwater, it appears increasingly deceptive.
Though later plot elements surrounding a search for buried wartime treasure do not always complement the atmosphere Tan has carefully constructed, this is a beautiful, dark and wistful exploration of loss and remembrance that, appropriately, will stay with you long after reading.
 
This novel ticks many boxes: its themes are serious, its historic grounding solid, its structure careful, its old-fashioned ornamentalism respectable. The reason I found it impossible to love is the quality of the writing. There is no discernible personality in the dutiful, dull voice of Yun Ling, and non-events stalk us on every page: "for a timeless moment I looked straight into his eyes"; "For a long while he does not say anything. Finally he begins to speak in a slow, steady voice." The self-conscious dialogue resembles a history lesson collated for the benefit of the western reader, and everything is ponderously "like" something else, so it takes twice as long: "We were like two moths around a candle, circling closer and closer to the flames, waiting to see whose wings would catch fire first." Despite the dramatic events, the overall effect is one of surprising blandness, like something you've read before.
 
This is a good old-fashioned story with a plot that arcs gracefully, maintains suspense, and stays true to characterisation. Yun Ling’s independent spirit and her anger seep like ink-stains into the narrative, but its distilled essence is a quieter appraisal of the dichotomy of memory, its treacherous failures, its cruel conveniences, its fadeout and deliverance. Outside Magnus’s house are two statues—one is of Mnemosyne the goddess of memory and the other is of her twin sister, the goddess of forgetting, whose name, of course, has been forgotten.

Here, too, the garden is the conceit. “A garden borrows from the earth, the sky, and everything around it, but you borrow from time,” Yun Ling accuses Aritomo, “Your memories are a form of shakkei too. You bring them in to make your life here feel less empty. Like the mountains and the clouds over your garden, you can see them, but they will always be out of reach.” The garden that Yun Ling intends to make is about more than a desire to preserve the memory of her sister, though, for in many ways, it was the idea of this garden that kept the sisters hopeful through their long internment. The Japanese garden, with its many deceptions and beauties, becomes a well-formed metaphor for the ways in which our lives are lived.
 
Aritomo, the enigmatic former gardener to the Emperor of Japan who glides through Tan Twan Eng’s second novel, tells his female apprentice in the Cameron Highlands of early-1950s Malaya that “Every aspect of gardening is a form of deception”.

Just the same applies, you might argue, to the art of fiction, with its incomplete points-of-view and deceptive trompe d’oeil vistas. Tan’s story here is just as elegantly planted as his Man Booker-long listed debut The Gift of Rain, and even more tantalisingly evocative.

Suffused with a satisfying richness of colour and character, it still abounds in hidden passageways and occult corners. Mysteries and secrets persist. Tan dwells often on the borderline states, the in between areas, of Japanese art: the archer’s hiatus before the arrow speeds from the bow; the patch of skin that a master of the horimono tattoo will leave bare; or the “beautiful and sorrowful” moment “just as the last leaf is about to drop”.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Independent, Boyd Tonkin (Apr 28, 2012)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tan Twan Engprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bentinck, AnnaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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 death.

Richard Holmes, A Meander Through Memory and Forgetting
Dedication
For my sister

And

Opgedra aan A J Buys — sonder jou sou hierdie boek dubbel so lank en halfpad so goed wees. Mag jou eie mooi taal altyd gedy.
First words
On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan.
Quotations
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.
Are all of us the same, I wonder, navigating our lives by interpreting the silences between words spoken, analyzing the returning echoes of our memory in order to chart the terrain, in order to make sense of the world around us?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
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?
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"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?"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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