The Garden of Evening Mists
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The Garden of Evening Mists

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  5,429 ratings  ·  964 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 350 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Myrmidon
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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel JoyceBring Up the Bodies by Hilary MantelThe Garden of Evening Mists by Twan Eng TanThe Lighthouse by Alison MooreNarcopolis by Jeet Thayil
2012 Man Booker Prize Longlist
3rd out of 12 books — 146 voters
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. StedmanBring Up the Bodies by Hilary MantelThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel JoyceThe Chemistry of Tears by Peter CareyDeath Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Man Booker Prize Eligible 2012
7th out of 152 books — 256 voters


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Scarlet
Attempt #7:

(This is going to be a long review because I have too many things to say. I just hope it's coherent.)


Have you ever sat in a dark room listening to an intricate piece of music (like Sergey Rachmaninoff's 'Tears') and experienced a deep-seated sadness when the last note died off??

Reading The Garden of Evening Mists felt like that.

This book took me on a journey. It was turbulent and tranquil, beautiful and ugly - all at the same time - and when it was over, I found myself sitting by the...more
Samadrita
"For after the rain, when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams, with their convex gleams,
Build up the blue dome of Air
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise, and unbuild it again."
- P.B. Shelley

The heron preens itself majestically, perched delicately at the edge of the pond, having found the familiarity of a home at last after miles of mateless flight. Gold-fl...more
Praj
Jun 09, 2014 Praj rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: tt-eng

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." -- Milan Kundera

In the evening when the clock strikes six, to the rampant chirping of sparrows the church bells ring, filling the languid air with its magnificence. These days the regal resonance of the bells is buried under the boisterous traffic, yet when the sparrows chirp at six in the evening, I know the bells are ringing. When memories flood within and tears swell up in the eyes, I love sitting by the ocean;...more
Aubrey
Are all of us the same, I wonder, navigating our lives by interpreting the silences between words spoken, analyzing the returning echoes of our memory in order to chart the terrain, in order to make sense of the world around us?
"...the heart of a contemplative state", in Tan's words, would have worked as a subsidiary title. Forbearing all contemptuous accusations of New Age influence, of course, for everyone knows that acceptable enlightenment may only be found in the dry and musty cacophonies...more
Friederike Knabe
Yugiri, meaning "Evening Mist" and a famous (in the novel) Japanese Garden, is much more than a backdrop or setting for this totally mesmerizing and haunting novel. With its creator and his former apprentice, it is at the core of events and place. Like all Japanese Gardens Yugiri offers calm and serenity for reflection and beauty for the eye by capturing nature through "shakkei", borrowed scenery, within a given space. Nakamura Aritomo, the Emperor's gardener after leaving his Japanese homeland...more
Jill
For those of us who read for character – and I am one of them – the complexities of a strongly drawn narrator is typically what reigns.

How odd, then, that I was so captivated by Garden of the Evening Mist, which is in many ways about the impermanence of individuals – the subjugation of self to become in closer alignment with nature and the flow of life – and the dominance of memory.

Our narrator is retired Supreme Court Judge Teoh Yun Ling, the physically maimed sole survivor of a brutal wartime...more
·Karen·
There we were, just last week, Jan-Maat and I, exchanging fairly facetious comments on a review of mine which managed, in a many-a-truth-spoken-in-jest kind of way to sum up precisely and concisely what troubles a writer most: endings.
And beginnings.
And middles.
And here I am, this week, with the perfect example of just how pertinent those flippant remarks might be. Tan Twan Eng made a superb beginning. He made a superb ending. Things just got ever so slightly lumpy in the middle.

On a mountain...more
Elaine
Extraordinarily evocative of the Malaysian highlands setting -- the landscape, weather, smells, flora and fauna are so vividly depicted that you look up from the kindle surprised to be in autumnal New York.

If only the characters had as much life as the herons, tea plants, jungle, etc.. But no, none of the peripheral characters -- Magnus, Emily, the narrator's family, Fredrik, Ah Cheong -- are more than cardboard. As for the main characters, Aritomo -- the Japanese gardener, printmaker, tatoo ar...more
Margitte
The book can be interpreted in many ways, it is that multi-levelled, so my take on the events might differ vastly from other readers. There are enough, excellent reviews about this book on Goodreads, so I won't indulge too much.

The most important sentence in the book, for me, is on Page 223(soft cover): "There was no need to talk much now - we understood each other's shades of silence."

And how precisely this sentence describes the events in the lives of all, but most importantly, the two main...more
Tony
The Japanese did not enter World War II through Pearl Harbor. Fifteen minutes after midnight and an hour before Pearl Harbor was attacked, Japanese troops landed on the northeast coast of Malaya. Malaya was the first door they smashed open. Japanese soldiers crawled up the beach at Pantai Chinta Berahi, taking the places of the leatherback sea turtles which emerged from the sea every year around that time to lay their smooth round eggs.

This is an exquisite novel of time and memory. (You know, if...more
Blair
The Garden of Evening Mists starts in the late 1980s, as retired judge Teoh Yun Ling returns to Yugiri, a property where she spent a period of her life almost forty years earlier, in Malaya during the Japanese occupation. Told in flashbacks as she looks back on her life, the majority of the book is devoted the events of this time. We learn that Yun Ling was the only survivor of a Japanese POW camp - a fact which, in itself, is a source of mystery, as she seems determined not to reveal how she ma...more
Agnieszka


Garden of evening mists it is history of South-East Asia in a nutshell. It’s a reminder of uncomfortable truths and shameful crimes . Hell of colonialism , the cruelty of the Japanese army massacring Malaysian , Chinese , English , the back-breaking labour camps for war prisoners or as they were called the guests of the emperor . What a cruel euphemism . This is callousness of British authorities and leaving the Malays to their fate . It is the Communist partisans and stories about the legen...more
Kelly
I was a good portion of the way into the novel before I was able to get something significant out of this. The main character is a survivor of the Japanese labor camps that they set up in Malaysia during the war- she is one of the "Straits Chinese," who are thoroughly Anglicanized, successful enough to have become a lawyer and eventually a judge when the war was done.

But she is deeply scarred by her experience. So much so that at first it seemed that the perspective that we were getting from her...more
Jonathan Peto
The main character of Ready Player One spends a lot of his time in an online world. After reading his story, I felt sensory deprived and longed for a narrative that offered lush images of nature. The Garden of Evening Mists delivered. It takes place in the highlands of Malaysia, mainly on a tea plantation called Majuba Tea Estate and its environs, not far from the jungle. The garden of the title belongs to a Japanese neighbor, Aritomo. I was indoors while reading both novels and words on the pag...more
Chrissie
I have listened to half of this book. I dislike it. It is contrived and unbelievable. The book tries to do too much, and thus does nothing well. The characters do not pull you in; they stay there flat between the pages of the book.

IF you decide you DO want to read it, do not pick the audiobook narrated by Anna Bentinck!!!!! The book is set in three different time periods. This is more confusing in an audiobook than in a paper book. I do NOT like the narration. There are Chinese and Japanese cha...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is a truly incredible book, and is my pick to win the Man Booker Prize this year, and I say that even before reading the last of the six.

Publisher summary: 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,...more
Tania
I will dance to the music of words, on more time


This exquisitely written novel had me at hello. The dedication reads:
Sonder jou sou hierdie boek dubbel so lank en halfpad so goed wees. Mag jou eie mooi taal altyd gedy.

An unexpected ode to my beautiful language.

Even without the Afrikaner influence in this book, I would still have savored every word of The Garden of Evening Mists. For me this multilayered work of historical fiction focuses on themes of love and loss and on forgiving yourself and...more
Nancy Oakes
4.5 stars -- super book. I have a paperback copy of this book that needs a home if anyone wants it (US only, I'll pay postage).

A few years back, Tan Twan Eng's novel The Gift of Rain was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and I remember thinking how very not cool it was that it didn't go on to make the shortlist. That was the year that Anne Enright won for her The Gathering, which I didn't really care for; it was also the year I was introduced to the work of Mohsin Hamid (The Reluctant Fundame...more
Cheryl
Beautifully crafted prose permeates the opening chapters. The story is set in Malaysia, where a judge is retiring, because she is beginning to suffer from dementia and memory loss. "For what is a person without memories? A ghost, trapped between worlds, without an identity, with no future, no past." She wants to preserve her memories, or at least get them written down before she loses them. "A memory drifts by. I reach for it, as if I am snatching at a leaf spiralling down from a high branch. I...more
Liviu
This is by far the most lyrical and beautiful (as in prose and atmosphere) book I've read in a long time.

I bought it a few weeks ago (the UK edition as I could not wait for the US edition) and when opening it I almost could not put it down. When the time came to read the book it had the same mesmeric quality from the first paragraph.

"On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan. Not many people would have known of him before the war, but I di...more
Kay
I loved this book, which means it probably won't win the Booker Prize, for which it is shortlisted. Set in Malaya, the novel shifts between two periods of time: 1951, when a Communist guerilla movement rages and 30 years later, when the narrator, Yun Ling, returns to the scene of a Japanese garden that she helped create under the direction of Aritomo, who had been a head gardener for the Emperor of Japan.

The book is a thoughtful, beautifully written exploration of art, brutality (the narrator lo...more
Rusalka
I'm going to do something in this post that I have noticed no one else who has done a "proper" review that I have read of this book has done. In fact, two things. By proper I mean reviews that have been published in old school places like literary reviews, and book sections of newspapers. I tend to read a book then have a quick look around the web for other peoples thoughts. Today's scout disappointed me.

So here it is.
1. I am not going to spoil the book. Unlike every review I have read, I am not...more
Connie
Yun Ling has retired from the Malayan Supreme Court, and traveled back to the Cameron Highlands where she had lived during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s. She has just been diagnosed with early aphasia, and wants to write down her memories before her mind forgets the past.

Yun Ling and her sister Yun Hong were teenage prisoners in a Japanese prison camp in the Malayan jungle during World War II. Although they had Chinese ancestry, they were admirers of Japanese gardens which they had visited...more
Tom Lee
I really thought this was a disaster.

Perhaps they don't have Karate Kid reruns in Malaysia. This would explain Eng not understanding how deeply cliched the unlikely-student-seeks-stoic-Japanese-master-with-hidden-depths genre seems to me. But to the reader familiar with Daniel-san or the dread Cobra Kai, this novel becomes an incoherent potluck of unappealing characters, halfhearted plotlines and an ugly commitment to using authorial skill to blur the line between profound koans and meaningless...more
Nick
This is a terrific book. It's shortlisted for the Booker, so it ought to be, but that is not always a guarantee, alas. So the one-word review is: YES.

More specifically: Tan Twan Eng's writing is lucid, simple, and poignant. Small things which are the stuff of everyday life become significant in a gentle flow of character and emotion. Huge traumas are expressed in small gestures and events. Healing takes place in unexpected ways as life goes on. The book is woven through with compassion and a wis...more
Minnie
Gentle Reader, I'm still thinking about this book. Sometimes I'm immediately seduced by a book and other times it has to grow on me. This slow moving elegaic novel is one of the latter. I enjoyed listening to it but as a South African I did sometimes suppress a quiet giggle at the reader's South African accent. This however in no way detracted from this complex novel of love, hatred betrayal and compromise and atonement.
Tan Twan Eng managed to create fragile human beings who have to survive in...more
Julia Mukuddem
this was quite a difficult read for me. firstly, the font of the book i was reading was quite small, but that's got nothing to do with the story itself. ;)

i just found it difficult as i had to read it rather slow. can't really put my finger on it as to why.

i'm south african, but i was born in japan and lived there for the first seven years of my life. so it was very interesting to read about the gardens and the tattoos - a lot of detail that i didn't know. i love history, so this was also a ve...more
Shomeret
Judging from the description, I thought that this book might be very similar to Tan Twan Eng's first novel, The Gift of Rain, but they are very different books.
Because The Gift of Rainis situated during WWII, it has a direct impact that yields tremendous intensity.

The Garden of Evening Mistsis more distanced. It deals with the fragility of memory. Jurist Yun Ling Teoh is losing her memories and hopes to preserve them through a written record. This is the purpose of history, and indeed of all w...more
Paige
So this book is pretty great.

Also, I'm not gonna lie: it is really slow-paced. I was 3/4 of the way through the book by the time I realized, "hey, nothing's really 'happened' yet." Some people might think it was boring or dull or something along those lines, but it's not. It is graceful and quiet.

The writing is absolutely gorgeous. I found myself rereading a lot of passages because they were so beautiful, it was like they had something more to say beyond just the meaning they delivered in the st...more
James
Thomas Mann begins his magisterial novel, Joseph and His Brothers with this line: "Very deep is the well of the past. Should we not call it bottomless?" The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng demonstrates the truth of Mann's remark. For in this beautiful and haunting novel it seems that the main character is continually dipping into the well of her own past to search for the memories that made her the aging judge that she is as the novel begins.
The story is told by Judge Yun Ling Teoh in fl...more
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Tan Twan Eng was born in 1972 in Penang, but lived in various places in Malaysia as a child. He studied law at the University of London and later worked as lawyer in one of Kuala Lumpur’s most reputable law firms. He also has a first-dan ranking in aikido and is a strong proponent for the conservation of heritage buildings.

Tan Twan Eng talked about his background, his second novel, and his writing

...more
More about Twan Eng Tan...
The Gift of Rain

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“For what is a person without memories? A ghost, trapped between worlds, without an identity, with no future, no past.” 43 likes
“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.” 32 likes
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