“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.”— The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng
Recommended by a fellow bookstagrammer, I happened to read The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng. What a lovely story with compelling narrative.
It is a historical novel during the Japanese occupation of Malaya in 1940’s. The story was narrated by Teoh Yun Ling, a newly retired Supreme Court Judge. Her unsettled past resurfaced when she returned to Cameron Highlands of Malaysia, where she was briefly apprenticed under a Japanese, Nakamura Aritomo who also happened to be a former gardener of the Emperor of Japan. Yun Ling and her elder sister, Yun Hong, were imprisoned in a Japanese civilian internment camp and Yun Hong was forced to become one of the comfort women for the Japanese soldiers. One day, Yun Ling miraculously escaped the camp.
After the war, she looked for the location of the camp in order to make a proper burial for her sister but couldn’t find any trace. She continued living her life with guilt and wanted to fulfil her sister’s wish to build a Japanese garden. From a family friend in Cameron Highlands told her Aritomo was living in Cameron Highlands, she visited there in hope of creating a Japanese garden for her sister. In between to and fro of Yun Ling’s past and present, she relived the memories and tried to figure out several unsolved mysteries Aritomo left when he suddenly disappeared.
It was such a beguiling story. This is my first book by a Malaysian novelist. The way Tan described on the beauty Japanese gardens and the scenery of Cameron Highlands was utterly enticing. The narration on the story of Yun Ling and Aritomo was enchanting with dainty little proses. Even after finishing the book, a trail of sentimentality continues to linger on my mind. Absolutely loved it.
The Garden of Evening Mists is second novel by Tan Twan Eng and it was shortlisted for 2012’s Man Booker Prize and won Man Asian Literary Prize. It has also been adapted to film in 2019. The adaptation was slightly varied from the book but the film itself was pleasantly beautiful. I’m gonna pick Tan’s debut novel The Gifted Rain for my next read. This book had also been long-listed for Man Booker Prize.