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The Garden of Evening Mists

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  11,253 Ratings  ·  1,655 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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J.D. According to what I found on the subject, it seems so. Good catch! :)

While the name Lethe is more often associated with the river in Hades, it is also…more
According to what I found on the subject, it seems so. Good catch! :)

While the name Lethe is more often associated with the river in Hades, it is also associated with the spirit of the river, or the Goddess of it, which presides over forgetfulness and oblivion. Mnemosyne is more easily found mentioned in popular culture (which may explain why people are more familiar with her). Lethe, on the other hand, was mentioned in Hesiod's Theogony (see the links below for excerpts which mention her).

According to this page: -- the author of that quote is Richard Holmes, and he is a historian. It's disappointing (to say the least) that a historian would get something like that wrong, when a few minutes of Internet searches could turn up results proving otherwise.


Lethe as a Goddess (excerpts from source texts at the bottom of the page):

Lethe as a river and spirit/Goddess thereof (excerpts from source texts at the bottom of the page):

More information/background and links to related topics:
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel JoyceBring Up the Bodies by Hilary MantelThe Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan EngThe Lighthouse by Alison MooreSwimming Home by Deborah Levy
2012 Man Booker Prize Longlist
3rd out of 12 books — 169 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 CareyThe Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Man Booker Prize Eligible 2012
7th out of 151 books — 270 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

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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
Jan 18, 2015 Dolors rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Watch your memory grow, wind it up and let it go
Recommended to Dolors by: Samadrita & Praj
Even the most mundane of lives are made of irreconcilable moments that give shape to the branches of memory, some blossom with scented flowers made of beauty and wonder and others rot in the stale waters of corrosive guilt, anger and impairing pain. But how to exist in the present when one is dragged away by the turbulent currents of a hapless past? How can the rising tide of atrocious history reach serene stillness in the pond of time? And what is real and what are mere reflections of the copin ...more
"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-f
Jun 09, 2014 Praj rated it it was amazing
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
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
Dec 13, 2015 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: Lauren Bufferd
This is such a beautiful book, incorporating so much in poetic language and imagery, complex and conflicted characters dealing with such huge issues that are both personal and of human-kind. The imagery of mists, clouds, birds, sky open it up (while paradoxically closing it in at times) in the same way that Arimoto opens up his garden using his careful techniques and also opens up his life to Yun Ling (and she to him).

The epigraph to this book is perfect in setting the tone and mood. It is from
Oct 02, 2012 Elaine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
May 30, 2013 ·Karen· rated it liked it
Shelves: mttbr-2013
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
Friederike Knabe
Sep 13, 2012 Friederike Knabe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia
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
Oct 08, 2012 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian-literature
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
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
Apr 04, 2013 Tony rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 10, 2015 Algernon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015

The garden has to reach inside you. It should change your heart, sadden it, uplift. It has to make you appreciate the impermanence of everything in life. That point in time just as the last leaf is about to drop, as the remaining petal is about to fall; that moment captures everything beautiful and sorrowful about life. Mono no aware, the Japanese call it.

In many ways, the second novel by Tan Twan Eng that I read is an illustration of the ‘mono no aware’ concept, by turns depressing in its desc
Jun 17, 2016 BrokenTune rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed

He touched the envelope on the table. ‘You mentioned that you worked as a researcher for the War Crimes Tribunal.’
‘I wanted to ensure that those who were responsible were punished. I wanted to see that justice was done.’
‘You think I am a fool? It was not all about justice.’
‘It was the only way that I would be allowed to examine the court documents and official records,’ I said. ‘I was searching for information about my camp. I wanted to find where my sister was buried.’
His eyes narrowed. ‘Yo
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
May 18, 2014 Agnieszka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, japan, 2014, reviewed

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
Alice Poon
May 23, 2016 Alice Poon rated it it was amazing

As Oscar Wilde once said, there’s nothing sane about the worship of beauty. For me, the saying certainly rings true for this ethereally beautiful novel. My passion may be irrational and even skewed, given that I am an ethnic Chinese with a penchant for oriental art, including Japanese gardens, but that doesn’t make it any less of a passion.

In this poetic drama, two seemingly unrelated elements – brutal sufferings in war and the Japanese ancient art of gardening and tattooing – are masterfully ju
Jonathan Peto
Jul 21, 2014 Jonathan Peto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
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
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,
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
Jan 01, 2013 Chrissie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 12, 2014 Tania rated it it was amazing
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
"The garden has to reach inside you. It should change your heart, sadden it, uplift it. It has to make you appreciate the impermanence of everything in life....that point in time just as the last leaf is about to drop, as the remaining petal is about to fall; that captures everything beautiful and sorrowful about life."

This is the story of a garden and of the man and woman who made the garden. It is a story about remembering, and a story about forgetting. As in all gardens, there is death and de
Tom Lee
Oct 03, 2012 Tom Lee rated it did not like it
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
Aug 15, 2016 Cherie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was awed by the beauty of the writing but irked initially by the non-English terms. I did look many things up and discovered some beautiful music and discussions of art and gardening that I enjoyed very much. The timeline switches were so smoothly delivered that I was transported to a time and place before I even realized it had happened. The storyline is very unemotionally introduced and off-putting at first, but the beauty of the garden setting and the story of the characters involved was em ...more
Aug 27, 2016 Giovanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 I might bump it up to 5 stars. I'm still thinking about it.

I doubt I'll be able to write a review in English, so I'll just write a small comment, in case someone who can't read Italian is interested.

I don't think I can try to explain to you what The Garden of Evening Mists is, overall, nor what it made me feel. English isn't my native language and I have read the book in Italian, so I'm not acquainted with its lexicon. What I wanted to say is that The Garden of Evening Mists has layers. Whe
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
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
Feb 02, 2015 Gearóid rated it it was amazing
Not to sure what to say in this review as i have read The Gift Of Rain
which my review of that shows that i thought it was really brilliant!

This book The Garden Of Evening Mists....well this was brilliant also!

I really like the way this author writes with his lovely descriptions of
the Japanese Gardens which are so quiet,peaceful and relaxing and how
each element of the garden is so carefully planned and each element
of the garden is so important to the overall effect.
This was just lovely to read an
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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 about Tan Twan Eng...

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“For what is a person without memories? A ghost, trapped between worlds, without an identity, with no future, no past.” 71 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.” 52 likes
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