Sunday, June 23
Book Review: The Garden of Evening Mists
Author: Tan Twan Eng
Pages: EBook 329
Summary: It's Malaya, 1949. After studying law at Cambridge 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?
My Rating: 8.25/10
What I liked/disliked about the book: There was an almost mythical feel to the book at times especially when the author takes the reader into the garden. I loved the parts with Aritomo and how the author created the characters and the setting around him. I enjoyed the story, it was slow moving in parts - but I appreciated it for this book. I think it worked out well to create a slow moving plot, as it helped with the character and plot development and created an enjoyable reading atmosphere. Both the parts of the book in the garden and the look at Yun Ling's past were incredibly well written, it's hard to pick a favourite part of the story, but I think the parts of the book that concentrated on the garden, the mythical feel to it the author created would be my favourite aspect to the book.
I also really enjoyed the care the author took with his characters, I didn't connect to them like I would have liked and while they were well developed, I do feel they were the weakest part to the book, because I couldn't connect to them as a reader, they were all missing that one element for me to be able t connect to them.
The writing was beautiful which was helped pull me into the book and story. It was hard to put the book down at times, as some of the passages were absolutely stunning. I was torn between slowing down to savour the book or inhaling the in a sitting. Over all, it was a wonderful read, one I'd highly recommend.
Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend the book. It was a strong book, lovely writing, great historical fiction aspects to it and all in all a worthy read.
What to read next: The Lighthouse (a fellow 2012 booker nominee), The Gift of Rain (also by the author)
Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, 777 Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Author Challenge