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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enigmatic Excellence
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...
Published 18 months ago by Sofia

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "For what is a person without memories?"
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...
Published 13 months ago by DubaiReader


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enigmatic Excellence, 20 Feb 2013
By 
Sofia (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "For what is a person without memories?", 31 July 2013
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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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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
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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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Total magic, 9 Sep 2012
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In this wonderful book we are plunged into the Far East, and the conflicts between Malays, Chinese and Japanese. Against a background of total savagery in and after the Second World War there is a tale of love and forgiveness that unfolds with the slow inevitability of the garden that is the centrepiece of the book. The two central characters - a former gardener to the Emperor of Japan and the Malayan Chinese prosecutor of Japanese war criminals, who subsequently becomes a judge - are portrayed with astonishing sensitivity, as is the setting in the Cameron Highlands. I loved every single minute of it, and now know where I want to go on my next holiday!
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Images that haunt the imagination and a great story to match, 27 July 2012
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For me, Tan Twan Eng's 'The Gift Of Rain' became one of those books that enter your subconscious on some level and keeps popping back into your mind. It was partly due to the evocative descriptions, partly the complexities of the central character. So when I bought my copy of 'Garden Of Evening Mists' I thought it unlikely he could achieve the same success twice. However, Tan Twan Eng has proved himself a genuine artist once again. The narrator is intriguing all the way through to the book's ending (which, by the way, carries a surprising twist and punch unusual in a so-called 'literary' novel). There is an air of beautiful sadness to some parts of the story. Again, the descriptions of the Malayan highlands are layered with deeper nuances, just as they were when Tan Twan Eng described the island of Penang in 'Gift Of Rain'. Finally, there are timeless (and some horrible) moral dilemmas swirling round this book like the mists round the eponymous garden. Dilemmas for the characters that made this reader, at least, think about the hard choices people face in the world. Tan isn't a prolific writer and reading his novel reveals why: every word counts.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The palest ink will endure beyond the memories of men.", 22 Feb 2013
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
In limpid lucid prose, Tan Twan Eng transports us to other worlds, other times. He conveys his story with all the subtlety and serenity of an exquisite tea ceremony.

Teoh Yun Ling, a spiky Malayan judge, retires and returns to the place where she had been happy for a short while when she was a young woman. This is Yugiri, the legendary garden and the Malayan highland home of Aritomo, a renowned Japanese gardener who used to work for the Emperor. Yugiri is the only place where she has ever found solace.

Whilst it is Yun Ling who narrates the story, it is the enigmatic figure of Aritomo around whom this story swirls. Backwards in time, back to the atrocities of war and internment. Other characters are brought into focus but as they recall their various war-time experiences, the author drifts a little from his carefully composed writing style into exposition. However, this is to an extent unavoidable if the reader is to fully comprehend the complicated background politics.

The book is essentially about painful memories, addiction to pain and memory itself. As Yun Ling's starts to fail her, she tells us: "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."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A nostalgic journey, 19 Nov 2013
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This story took me back to the latter stages of the "Emergency" naming many areas familiar to me although some were seen from a RAF helicopter providing support to the Army in jungle situations. I stood on the Padang in front of the Selangor Club (Dog). AsThe portrayal of a South African was so authentic I was not surprised to read Tan is living in Cape Town
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sole Survivor Seeks a Soul's Release., 6 Jan 2013
By 
Mrs. Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Tan Twan Eng employs a multitude of metaphors in order to build a jigsaw puzzle, exquisitely complex, designed to be solved from the blind side with the picture only revealing itself when turned over on completion. Or a cryptic crossword with clues hidden in plain sight, partial answers nestling in boxes wrapped in tissue. A treasure hunt with a map that only unfurls a little at a time.

This is a book that leaves you wondering what understanding you still may have missed, even after two readings. It is rich, dense, challenging and yet strangely reassuring; soothing in tone. Valuably describing a past time and place; offering a true education to be absorbed slowly, paying respect for a writer who takes his time, using words as paint, creating pictures that will stay forever in the mind.

I should also add that it kept our Book Club (8 members this month) talking for over two hours and some of us all the way home in the car too!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Stony Garden, 30 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Garden of Evening Mists (Paperback)
Tan Twan Eng's novel addresses an ugly period in Malaya's recent history: a country serially abused by colonising nations which suffered a hostile Japanese onslaught during World War II and Communist guerrilla terrorism in the following years of Emergency. Despite the subject matter Eng cultivates an atmosphere of measured reflection together with a vividness of depiction that plangently echoes the visual spectacle of the zen garden of the title.

However, the elegiac tone and the serene pace of the novel did, in my opinion, undermine somewhat the dramatic and horrific events it retells. For instance, both Professor Tatsuji's and Yun Ling's significant accounts of the war - perhaps the most affecting passages in the novel - are simply retold by the characters, not brought to life in flashback episodes, defusing the emotion in mid-distance. Rather like the garden itself, events are carefully composed and sculpted, not quite seeming in their natural, immediate state.

The last quarter of the novel, perhaps because of this reflective style, feels more like an extended epilogue. Although there are one or two revelations as the conclusion approaches, the sense is that everything has already occurred. That Yun Ling's life in the present is, and has been for sometime, purposeless and surplus. I guess that is a sensation of old age, our physical and mental decline, so maybe it's an accurate portrayal, though in a novel, anticlimactic.

It is a carefully written, spare and, occasionally, sparkling novel. A little semi-precious jewel with the cold sculpted remoteness of cut stone.
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The Garden of Evening Mists
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (Paperback - 2 May 2013)
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