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The Garden of Evening Mists

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  15,812 ratings  ·  2,155 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 2nd 2011 by Myrmidon (first published November 1st 2011)
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Judith Huang I liked the first too, that's what led me to pick up the second with anticipation. However, so far I liked the first better - more engaging…moreI liked the first too, that's what led me to pick up the second with anticipation. However, so far I liked the first better - more engaging characters, and the second seemed a bit of a rehash of the first down to the Japanese mentor figure.(less)
Asteropê From the book's text:
"Three years had passed since the Malayan Communist Party had launched its guerrilla war against the government, forcing the…more
From the book's text:
"Three years had passed since the Malayan Communist Party had launched its guerrilla war against the government, forcing the high commissioner to declare a state of emergency. The war showed no signs of ending, with the communist terrorists—which the government referred to as “CTs” or, more commonly, “bandits”—keeping up regular attacks on rubber estates and tin mines" (from Ch 3).

CT = communist terrorists
(less)

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4.10  · 
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 ·  15,812 ratings  ·  2,155 reviews


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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
Violet wells
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I get why this was nominated for the Booker; I also get why it didn’t win. Not that winning the Booker is any kind of indisputable endorsement that a novel is truly first rate and destined to become a classic – I get why The Luminaries was nominated but I’ll never get why it won (unless the competition that year was uniformly ordinary) and the same is true for me of half a dozen past winners. There was so much that was good about this novel and yet while I consistently enjoyed it I never quite l ...more
Elyse Walters
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm trying to retire from writing reviews--write shorter abbreviated ones --but the books I've been reading make this very difficult. SO THIS IS DIFFICULT....

This is another notable - epic -book I've read this year. WONDERFUL!!!

Great setting in the lush Malaysian Highlands.....with a Male Japanese Gardner and a retired Female Chinese Judge suffering from an illness...at the center of this story.

The judge - Yun Ling, asks the gardener, Aritomo, to the design a garden for her to honor her deceas
...more
Dolors
Jun 09, 2014 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
Praj
Mar 15, 2013 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
...more
Lynne King
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.

I have indeed been touched by the hand of grace in discovering this perfect, elegant, lyrical and thought-provoking book. I feel as if I have discovered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Such a tour de force. How can I possibly
...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
Sue
Nov 20, 2015 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
...more
Elaine
Sep 18, 2012 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
...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
Paul
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: se-asia
I think this is a remarkable novel and I was captured from the opening sentence:
"On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan."
It is essentially a historical novel which looks at the role of memory and forgetting. The protagonist and narrative voice is Teoh Yun Ling; she is a retiring Supreme Court Judge in the late 1980s. As a young woman, she and her sister were prisoners of the Japanese during World War Two. She survived and her sister did
...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
·Karen·
Sep 12, 2012 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
...more
Jill
Oct 02, 2012 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
...more
Friederike Knabe
Aug 10, 2012 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
Tony
Sep 17, 2012 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
...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Mar 13, 2015 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
...more
BrokenTune
Nov 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
3.5*

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
...more
Agnieszka
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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 legendary tre
...more
Alice Poon
Oct 16, 2015 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
...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
DeB MaRtEnS
The Garden of the Evening Mists is a "literary novel", with a capital L. It requires concentration. It delivers prose which insists that you stop and read again, look at the words which take you into the stillness of the garden. It forces you to focus, because this narrative moves fluidly in time, between people and love and cruelty and memory. It tells a story of wartime in what is now Malaysia, its aftermath from the occupation of the harsh Japanese and a country devastated by a loss of trust ...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
Sara
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

There’s no denying that The Garden of Evening Mists is a wonderful piece of literature. The writing is beautiful and tragic at the same time, with hidden meanings buried deep within the characters words. It also manages to peel away the many layers of one woman’s incredibly complicated life in Malaya, and the horrors of war, in an almost cinematic way. It’s atmospheric, with a hint of mystery, and you can feel the level of passion
...more
Jonathan Peto
Jun 17, 2014 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
Hana
"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
...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
Roman Clodia
I came to this book ready to love it as so many of my book-friends do... but sadly I found it patchy and episodic. As is so often the case in contemporary novels, it flits between different times: c.1990s (I'm guessing) when the narrator Yun Lin retires from her position as a judge in Malaysia and returns to Majuba where the eponymous garden lies; 1951 when she first becomes the apprentice to a Japanese master-gardener and works with him on Yugiri; and inset stories of her experiences under Japa ...more
Chrissie
Jul 04, 2012 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
...more
Jeanette
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Others have reviewed this book so well that I could not do better. It's tone is an unusual one. Desirable purposes and bountiful delicacy, owning the skill (by pure examples too) of what to remember and what to forget. Doing so in order to own and master the gentle civility and peaceful inclusions that "better" becomes. It's a form of address and telling throughout this book, that pictures/frames the very essences of the skills it teaches to portray and encompasses.

It's filled with dichotomies
...more
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Tan Twan Eng was born in Penang and 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; in 2016, he was an International Writer-in-Residence at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Tan's first novel, The Gift of Rain (2007), was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has ...more
“For what is a person without memories? A ghost, trapped between worlds, without an identity, with no future, no past.” 81 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.” 69 likes
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