Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the emperor of Japan.
Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in memory of her sister, who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice "until the monsoon comes". Then she can design a garden for herself.
As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to the gardener and his art, while all around them a communist guerilla war rages. But the Garden of Evening Mists remains a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?
©2012 Tan Twan Eng (P)2012 W.F. Howes
With most books, the author either has you root for the main character (despite their flaws), or has you love the main character because they're so darn cool. It takes incredible skill and enormous courage for an author to force the reader to squirm from discomfort because we may not actually LIKE the main character and we may not find much endearing about her at all. We may not actually be able to forgive some actions of the main character but it doesn't mean we're not with her throughout the story, keeping her at a distance but utterly engrossed.
That kind of writing happens once in a blue moon but Tan Twan Eng has done it. This novel is pure poetry. It forces the reader to question their own morality, to ask themselves "Do I REALLY know what I would do in such a situation? Do I have the right to judge others, having never been in those circumstances?"
Anna Bentinck does a brilliant job. Her accents are fantastic (though admittedly not always accurate) and she portrays the main character with the perfect amount of "chilliness".
Early on in the book, I immediately judged the Professor as some bit player, an insignificant nobody. However, as the book unfolds, the Professor, as a human being, becomes heartbreakingly unforgettable.
This is my favorite book of all time. I'm desperate for Audible to have his other book, Gift of Rain, narrated.
Interestingly, what I loved best is the performance. The author gives us characters from a variety of countries speaking English in distinctive accents. Ms. Bentinck's performance brings these voices to life so beautifully that, at times, you find yourself not caring so much about the slowly unfolding story as you are captivated by the sound of the characters. And while the story does build slowly, it builds very surely. The author has you firmly in his grip.
It is a gripping story filled with moral ambiguities and interesting surprises. It is beautifully constructed, like the artwork described within the story. The author uses language in many beautiful ways.
Just beautiful; a great read.
This is an incredible story. One you will never forget
The Gift of Rain, by the same author
there is so much information in this book. I kept thinking I need to learn more about this. Malaysia will no longer be a distant place for me, but a place I have traveled to by way of a great book.
The author is brilliant in creating images as he writes, however, in this book, like his first, he has too many story lines going (Jim Thompson-like character, kamikaze pilots love affair, the South African character, etc) and it detracts from his real story. Some of the stories seemed implausible, I couldn't believe the main character would do or accept her later life based on her history.
not sure that I have, but she is a good performer
Yes, his descriptive narrative, the beauty of the land, the description of the main character's coming to terms with her illness, I am sure there were others.
Maybe the author would be better off turning this novel into a series of short stories.
I can only assume the book is better than the narration. The narrator has a pleasant enough voice when she is reading naturally, but when she lapses into her impersonation of Chinese, Japanese, South African accents, it is such a jolt it has ruined the book for me.
Very much so. Terrible accents. Compared with narrators such as Simon Vance and Jim Dale who bring individual characters to life so you know in an instant who is talking, this narrator made me wince.
The Gift of Rain by the same author. Two of the finest literary achievements in the last several decades.
Silly question. I'd prefer to have dinner with the author or narrator.
This is an exquisite work beautifully performed. I only wish an equally talented male narrator (Jonathan Aris) would be commissioned to narrate The Gift of Rain by the Tan Twan Eng.
If the words of a book could be soft or hard--these would be soft. Like floating --as nature and narrative intertwine. The connection with the Garden and the people is very 'sweet', the concepts interesting. The story is good....
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