The second country I visited via books this year was Malaysia. Last year I had the opportunity to listen to all of the authors shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize read from their novels. When I heard Tan Twan Eng read from his novel, The Garden of Evening Mists, I knew I wanted to read it. A few days later I popped into the bookstore and purchased the book. And I was fortunate enough to snag an autographed copy.
Teoh Yun Ling didn’t have an easy life. During World War II she and her sister were sent to a Japanese camp. She was the only one who survived the camp. After the war she prosecuted Japanese war criminals. Yun Ling hated the Japanese. But she loved her sister who died in the camp. Yun Ling didn’t know where she was interned. And she didn’t know where her sister died or where who body was. Since she couldn’t bury her, she wanted to create a memorial garden for her sister, who loved Japanese Gardens. Yun Ling approaches Nakamura Aritomo, who is now living in Malaysia. He was the gardener for the Emperor of Japan and Yun Ling wants to commission him to design a garden for her sister. He refuses. However, he takes her on as an apprentice so Yun Ling can create a garden herself.
World War II has ended, however, there’s a new war being fought in the jungles of Malaysia. Communist guerrillas are roaming the countryside murdering those in their way. Malayan nationalists are struggling for independence from Britain. And through it all, Yun Ling and Aritomo work in the Garden of Evening Mists.
This novel is one of the most beautiful novels I have ever read. On many occasions I found myself rereading passages.
“Thirty-six years after that morning, I hear his voice again, hollow and resonant. Memories I had locked away have begun to break free, like shards of ice fracturing off an arctic shelf. In sleep, these broken floes drift towards the morning light of remembrance.”
Before reading this I didn’t know much about Malaysia and its turbulent history. The history alone broke my heart. But reading about Yun Ling and her trials and tribulations brought it to life for me. The amount of cruelty humans can inflict on other humans is disturbing. While this novel is beautiful, it is also gut-wrenching. War is brutal. No matter what language you use to describe it, it’s violent.
This novel is one that should be read in small chunks. Don’t devour it. Savor it. The Garden of Evening Mists is a work of art. If you have not read it, I encourage you to do so.
I did not read the book…But after reading your words, I think it is the next one I am going to pick from the library….Thanks a lot!!!!
I hope you enjoy it. Such a wonderful novel and I’m impressed by this writer. I want to pick up his other book, The Gift of Rain
I have this on my “to-read” list. Glad that you enjoyed it…your review is very encouraging!
It’s a wonderful book!
Wow…sounds like a worthwhile read. 🙂
This sounds like an amazing read!! I just added to my “want to read” list on Goodreads!
I haven’t been keeping up with Goodreads. Shame on me!
Yes, shame on you :). I love it!! I look up books all the time and keep track of some of the books I want to read. Plus, guess who “friended” me today on Goodreads??? Deborah Harkness, the author of A Discovery of Witches!!
Wow that’s awesome. Is that the one who you saw a few months ago?
Yes, it is :). I like being able to see what books she has read because she is such a smart woman and so knowledgeable about history that her choices are interesting. She likes the fantasy genre with a good dose of history thrown in which I love too!
Fantasy and history–count me in!
Then you really have to bring A Discovery of Witches right to the top of your TBR pile!! You will love it :).
I’ll have to check the library.
Well, what are you waiting for? Get to the library girl!! Or, better yet, break your resolution and buy it. You will want this one on your bookshelf :).
I refuse to break my resolution simply because you said I wouldn’t be strong enough. So really, this is your fault.
Ooooh, your willpower is amazing!! I am very impressed :).
I think it’s your mission to break my willpower!
Now what makes you think that???? LOL It’s just that I keep hearing this crying sound coming from all the London bookshops because the books don’t think you love them anymore!! Poor things :).
now now…I’m doing my best checking out books in the library to save them. I heard that if a book isn’t checked out for six months they are sent away. That’s a lot of reading for me!
I’m going crazy today. I only have about 25 more pages to go in 11/22/63 by Stephen King, but I had to go to work!!!! It’s driving me crazy waiting for lunchtime :$.
Oh that’s brutal. Shall I read the last 25 pages for you and type them into an email. That would be nice of me … guess I’m not that nice 🙂
That would be a lot of typing LOL!!!! Only 75 minutes until lunch – I think I can do it! 🙂 Did you go to the library today to get A Discovery of Witches????
I didn’t. and now one of my books is overdue. Dang! Tomorrow
Hmmm … I haven’t read the book nor been to Malaysia.
I haven’t been to Malaysia but I hope to visit soon.
Sounds like a fabulous book! Thanks for sharing!
It’s rare when I want to read so slowly so I won’t miss a word, an image, and a thought.
It sounds like a great book! I have been off the reading thing for some reason—gotta get back into it!
I have tons on my Kindle….
I’ve been reading more non-fiction lately. Not sure what started the trend
Thanks for the recommendation. It sounds like a marvelous book!
I loved it!
Another new title for me and a new author as well. I haven’t been to Malaysia, but you are inspiring a visit.
Wait until you read the novel. You’ll want to book your ticket!
I love this; “one that should be read in small chunks. Don’t devour it. Savor it” Nicely said. The language in the book sounds exquisite – and the plot interesting and thoughtful.
War is horrid – it will never be anything else – it won’t go away, but the important thing is how the remnants are dealt with. Something must be learned – something positive must be built – then maybe some day wars will be a choice set aside.
War shows us how much hatred can reside in a society. And it shows us how horrible people can be. But you are right, we should learn from them. If we don’t learn, we can’t recover and rebuild. And hopefully we can live in peace.
I’m very glad to read you liked it this much. I’ve got this after having read quite a few raving reviews of bloggers whose taste I trust. I know I should move it up in my pile but at the same time I know you are right, this is one to read slowly and I don’t always have the time for that. I wait for the right moment.
yes, don’t rush it. I set it aside for a few months when I new my life wouldn’t be so crazy. Some novels and can rip through and not miss much. This isn’t one of those. I wonder if you can read it for your War and Literature readings.
It sounds as if it could be a choice if I haven’t read it by the end of the year. 🙂
I just realized….It’s a bit scary to already think of 2014. Who knows what will be in a year?
You never do know. It’s scary and it holds a lot of hope.
I’m glad to see you enjoyed this. I agree, it is absolutely a book to savor.
Yes! And now that I read it I need to pop over to your blog and read the review. I tend to skim reviews of books I haven’t read but hope to. Now I can actually comment.
Unfortunately, I was behind on reviews at the time, so I gave it a much shorter review than it deserved.
Oh I’ve been there and done that 🙂
I had never heard of this book but your review and the one short quote sold me. Off to the library to see if it is available.
I hope you can find it.
Superb review of what sounds like a very moving and beautifully written book.
It brought tears to my eyes, made me angry, laugh–a whole range of emotions.
This sounds like an interesting book. I’m always fascinated by the histories of other countries. Growing up in Germany we learned all about WW2 and other battles fought in Europe. Asia was always an afterthought it seemed and we never went deeply into it.
I didn’t know much about Malaysia’s involvement and I’m embarrassed to admit that. World War II was my specialty in grad school. I studied the European front and sadly I didn’t explore too much due to lack of time. Now I love learning new things and broadening my horizons on my own schedule.
This seems like a book that I might enjoy. I’ll put it on my list!
I hope you enjoy it!
My knowledge of Malaysia is very limited, I’m afraid. You’ve made me want to read this, and soon.
Let me know if you like it
Definitely. Could be a while. I’m currently slogging through The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
I wish you luck. Hopefully it’s going well but not sure with the slogging bit.
He’s a brilliant writer, but the rants about the Catholic church are getting tedious.
I see. I think I need to read that one, but I haven’t added it to the top of my pile yet.
Set aside some time for this one. Each page is so densely packed (literally) and the writing is intense. I will be glad I read it, but probably exhausted afterward. 🙂
Goodness, you aren’t selling this one to me at all 🙂
Most definitely a tough sell!
I like traveling through books. It’s cheaper and more convenient.
Especially if you get the books via the library.
I wasn’t gripped when I heard him read the extract, but you have succeeded in making me want to read it. Thanks.
It’s wonderful. And I have Wolf Hall on my TBR pile.
Laurel at Rockin’ The Purple has become a Hilary Mantel fan!
You have made it sound amazing and having visited Malaysia its very tempting but the war element, well I’m just not sure I can bear to read it.
If you have difficulties reading about wars and the atrocities committed during war I don’t recommend this one Gilly.
It’s since visting Gallipoli, it had such a profound effect on me.
High praise – I will definitely have to read this one now. Thanks for that glowing review.
And my library have a copy – so reserved it!
I have not read the book. Beautiful summary 🙂
Sounds like a fascinating read, TBM! And an award-winning book too! Will check out whether we have this in our libraries. 🙂
I hope you can find it Myra
Sounds like a great read and I usually think that the shortlisted novels are much more approachable than the winner. I need to practice reading slowly, there are so many books I really love the beauty of the language but I just can’t show the self restraint to savor them. I just have to know what happens.
I know what you mean. This one helped since much of the subject matter was difficult–I had to take breaks. I suggested this book to TBH and it’s a hit! I haven’t read Mantel yet, but her novel Wolf Hall is sitting right here waiting for me.
I have Wolf Hall on my shelf as well and am waiting for at least a release date for the last book in the trilogy before I start reading it, maybe.
That’s a good plan. I doubt she cranks these out with all the research and such. I need to pick up the second one.
Yeah – I’m not even sure they’ve released an expected date. I’ve got both of the first two on my Kindle as they were both on sale at some point.
Yes, war is brutal. Sounds like an interesting read.
Last year I visited the site of one of the WWII Japanese Internment camps here in Utah (Topaz). It’s a gut wrenching feeling. I have relatives/ancestors who were interned in similar camps in California and Arizona during the war.
I can only imagine that visiting the camp was difficult. I would like to see it one day. Such a horrible part of American history that is swept under the rug too often.
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