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"For what is a person without memories?"
on 31 July 2013
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.