The Garden of Evening Mists

By Tan Twan Eng,

Book cover of The Garden of Evening Mists

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…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked The Garden of Evening Mists as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This is a novel whose beautiful writing adds layers to this highly engaging story told from multiple time periods in a Malaysian woman’s life. Although the novel mostly plays out in Malaysia, it involves a Japanese character of great significance to the story and explores in engaging detail the art of Japanese gardening and the Malay experience of Japanese wartime colonialism. This is an important book, and while it won many awards, including the 2012 Man Booker Prize, I hope the book remains in the reading public’s eye for a long time. I greatly envy writing that can carry emotion…

Maybe more hopeful about the redemptive power of re-engagement, this beautiful book employs eloquent language to evoke a passion and a way of interacting involving almost no words whatsoever. In Malaysia in 1949, a prosecutor of Japanese war criminals arrives at the gates of the Emperor’s former chief gardener, seeking reparation (and maybe revenge) for the death of her sister in a prisoner-of-war camp. The story itself is sweeping in scope, but the narration stays quiet, and the real core of the book is the spell cast by the building and walking of Japanese gardens on the understandably embittered protagonist…

If you like books that open like a flower, as I do, you might very much enjoy this novel set mostly in and around an exquisite Malaysian garden designed by the one-time gardener of the Emperor of Japan. The author, himself Malaysian, hangs a heavy load on that little plot of land — love and pain through five decades, the Japanese occupation of the Malay peninsula during World War 2, the principles of existential gardening, and gnawing memory — but he keeps the focus tight while suggesting so much more. To describe the novel at greater length risks destroying its…

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