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The Garden of Evening Mists [Paperback]

Tan Twan Eng
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (363 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 Feb 2012
SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2012. It's 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?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Myrmidon Books Ltd; 1st Edition Thus edition (11 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905802625
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905802623
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 18.6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (363 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 62,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tan Twan Eng was born in Penang, Malaysia. He divides his time between Kuala Lumpur and Cape Town.

The Gift of Rain, his first novel, was Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. It has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Greek, Romanian, Czech and Serbian.

His latest novel is The Garden of Evening Mists, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012. Boyd Tonkin in The Independent called it

'an elegant and haunting novel of art and war and memory...Tan writes with breath-catching poise and grace, linguistic refinement and searching intelligence...His fictional garden cultivates formal harmony -but also undermines it. It unmasks sophisticated artistry as a partner of pain and lies. This duality invests the novel with a climate of doubt; a mood - as with Aritomo's creation - of "tension and possibility". Its beauty never comes to rest.'

It has been translated/will be translated into German, French, Italian, Serbian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish, Taiwanese Chinese, Indonesian, Korean and Norwegian.

The Garden of Evening Mists won the Man Asian Literary Prize in March 2013.

In June it won the Walter Scott Prize 2013, from a shortlist of authors which included Hilary Mantel, Rose Tremain, Thomas Keneally, Pat Barker and Anthony Quinn.

The Garden of Evening Mists was also shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2014.

Product Description


Just as elegantly planted as his Man Booker-long listed debut The Gift of Rain, and even more tantalisingly evocative. --Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

Book Description

The international bestseller, winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize 2012 and the 2013 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
98 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful and sensitively written 26 Jun 2012
Having so enjoyed his first book, I started reading this one with great anticipation. I was not disappointed. His main character, a woman judge who has been tortured by the Japanese when they invaded Penang, approaches the former gardener to the Emperor of Japan, wanting him to make her a Japanese garden in memory of her sister.

His writing is magical and he paints vivid pictures of the Malaysian jungle near Cameron Heights. His introduces a longstanding family friend who is a survivor of the Boer War. Like the Judge he has experienced loss as his family was put in a concentration camp by the British. The battle for independence and the fight against communism also adds further depth to this fascinating story, which is wonderfully crafted throughout.

A must read.
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83 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative and profound. 1 Jun 2012
By Columba
I found this second novel by Tan Twan Eng both absorbing and extraordinarily enriching. His hero is a woman. He writes in the first person singular and is obviously very much in touch with the female aspect of his psyche which adds to the authenticity of his plot.

I loved his first novel, 'The Gift of Rain,' and this one has an even greater profundity. I like especially the way in which he connects the past memories of his hero, Judge Teoh Yun Ling, with her present existence.

The real subject of the story is a Japanese Gardener, Nakamura Aritomo. He had once been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan. Yun Ling's story is intimately connected with Aritomo and the unique relationship between the two. There are several interesting characters and each plays a vital part in the unfolding of the story.

On the very first page Tan Twan Eng writes,

- "Thirty-six years after that morning, I hear his voice again, hollow and resonant. Memories I had locked away began to break free, like shards of ice fracturing off an arctic shelf. In sleep these broken floes drift towards the morning light of remembrance."

That's a marvellous paragraph and immediately hooked me on the story. Its a beautiful book full of wonderful and moving images as well as being an intriguing read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "For what is a person without memories?" 31 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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 Japanese on Malaysia during WWII. She became a judge to bring justice for the many victims, but is now succumbing 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 beautiful 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 tattoos, 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.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enigmatic Excellence 20 Feb 2013
By Sofia
Tan Twan Eng's "The Garden of Evening Mists" is one of those rare books that I want to pick up and reread immediately, there is so much in this novel.

Ostensibly this is the tale of Yun Ling, a retired Malaysian judge, who returns to the highlands and to a garden she helped build after the war with the enigmatic former gardener to Emperor Hirohito, Aritomo. The garden of the title is a garden steeped in memory for her, but as the mists of memory shift, further mysterious facets of Aritomo's life are revealed. Who was he? What was his role in Malaysia? Tied to this is Yun Ling's individual journey, from Japanese prisoner of war to judge; the route of her recovery, of her making peace with her wartime experiences is inextricably linked to her learning the ancient art of Japanese gardens, learning how to look at things differently. The two stories find perfect harmony and expression in the garden as layer upon layer of detail is slowly added.

"The Garden of Evening Mists" is such a vibrant novel, with the narratives of Yun Ling and Aritomo intertwined and growing alongside those of Magnus and Emily (owners of the neighbouring tea plantation), Frederik (their heir), Yun Hong (Yun Ling's sister), Tatsuji (a Japanese academic) and those of Malaysia and Japan as they move beyond the shadows cast by the war. Within these stories also bloom tales of art, history, love, loss, honour, duty and regret within beautiful, lyrical prose.

This is a really fantastic novel. I shall be reading it again very soon, in the meantime, I recommend it whole-heartedly.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read.
This is an unusual story. As a avid reader, I don't give up on a book very often. This one I was not sure of. However persistence paid off. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Amber
3.0 out of 5 stars Relaxing read
Didn't grab me I'm afraid. Haven't finished it but will try.
Published 4 days ago by Roo Redo
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read
I really enjoyed this book for a number of reasons. Firstly, the plot is engaging, moves at a good pace and has a good balance between dialogue and descriptive. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Anna Cremin
5.0 out of 5 stars Misty Watercolour Memories
A wonderful story, beautifully told, which lingers in the corners of the mind long after the book has ended. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Constantreader
5.0 out of 5 stars The Garden Of Evening Mists By Tan Twan Eng

‘The Garden Of Evening Mists’ is a truly wonderful novel. Read more
Published 11 days ago by The Mother Booker
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel of many layers.
When I first started reading this novel (chosen by a member of my book group) I was not sure I was going to like it. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Parklife
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
It has been a long time since I last read such a beautifully written book. The author weaves a very real and evocative picture of Malaya, so you can really see and feel the garden... Read more
Published 18 days ago by Fiona
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
A book that takes you to places with its descriptive prose and makes you feel emotion as you read it.
Published 23 days ago by Mac
5.0 out of 5 stars evokative and moving story absolutly wonderful highly recommended
Tan Twan Eng paints pictures with words. A very moving novel that had me spellbound from the first page to the last.
Published 23 days ago by Mrs. Marion Hodgson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
About a part of the world I grew up with. Very different and enjoyable. I look forward to reading more from this author.
Published 25 days ago by jeroendottir88
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