Tan Twan Eng, the writer of The Gift of Rain, a Man Booker Prize Longlisted book in 2007, is back with his second book.
With The Garden of Evening Mists, an alluring, historical story of loss and grief, he is in the running for Man Booker Prize again. This shortlisted book is published by independent publisher Myrmidon Books.
The story takes place in three different time periods; the second World War, Malaysia in the aftermath of World War II, and the present.
The war times scenes are very briefly told. Yun Ling Teoh was the only survivor of a Japanese prisoner camp, in Malaya Forests, at the age of nineteen. Almost 40 years later, she is now a Supreme Court justice. The book begins in her last day at work, before retirement. She has been diagnosed with a disease that would cause her to forget everything eventually. She returns back to Cameron Highlands, where she was raised, and discovers a Yugiri (meaning the garden of mists), the only Japanese Garden in Malaysia.
Nakamura Aritomo is the self-exiled, former gardener of Hirohito, the Emperor of Japan. Although Yun Ling hated for the Japanese, she requested Aritomo to design a garden in memory of her perished sister, who was in the same prison of war camp she survived. Aritmo refuses her request, and Yun Ling became his apprentice instead. And so begins their relationship…
At this point in the story, the reader starts to travel with Yun Ling back and forth through time, and the reader witnesses their tender and peaceful relationship developing.
“‘You are still there, in the camp’ said Aritomo. ‘You have not made it out.’”
“’It is the same with you,’ he said a moment later, ‘Your old life too, is gone. You are here, borrowing from your sister’s dreams, searching for what you have lost.’”
In time, she learns to let go and starts to heal…
The story of grief, sacrifice and faith, is gracefully written. This well-crafted book has a tranquility in itself, yet its complete with rich colors, lush landscapes, and vivid characters, as well as their mysterious pasts. This novel a page turner. While the mystery unravels fiercely and dramatically, the gentleness is still touchable.
Tan Twan Eng proves his mastery of cultural complexities with this history packed novel.
Have you read The Garden of Evening Mists?
How did you find it… and do you think he will win this time? Please share your comment below.