I have embarked on an escapist, literary journey. I have packed my bag, my passport, my map and I’ve set off to see if I can travel “Around the world in 80 literary ways”! I plan to read both fiction and non-fiction in an attempt to traverse this wide and wonderful world of ours. Book twenty-six in my journey lands allows me to linger a little longer in the Malaysia Highlands.
The latter novel was long listed for the prestigious Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize.
Nakamura Aritomo, is the former garden for the Emperor of Japan. He is now living in exile at Yugiri, where he has created the only Japanese garden found in the Northern Malaysian highlands. Aritomo is rather famous and known as the supreme expert of this graceful art form. His garden has become somewhat of a legend and glimpses of it are highly sought, however Aritomo is somewhat of a recluse.
Teoh Yun Ling first became aware of Nakamura Aritomo’s existence when she was a teenage girl. Yun Ling’s sister was fascinated with Japanese garden design and she introduced Yun Ling to images of Aritomo’s garden designs.
However, then there was a war, there were frightful ordeals in prison-camps to survive and significant time lapsed. Many years later, Yun Ling returns to the Northern Malaysian Highlands. She is now a retired English Supreme Court Judge, battling encroaching illness. Yun Ling retreats to the area where she had spent much time living as a child. She finds herself searching for solace, tranquility and forgiveness. Yun Ling has a burning hatred for the Japanese and yet she purposefully sets out to engage with Aritomo-san.
The story is narrated by Yun Ling, it is a juxtaposition of the present and the past and told partly in flashbacks. Yun Ling tries simultaneously to remember and to forget. She has been struck with a degenerative brain condition, and in trying to piece together the past she finds that Aritomo and The Garden of Evening Mists holds many of the answers to her questions. In the garden of memories, Yun Ling finds a place of promise & dedication. Tranquil, silent, poetic, mesmerizing, haunting, and redeeming.
Tan Twan Eng’s Garden of Evening Mists is pensive, contemplative, reflective, metaphorical and exquisitely beautiful. I highly recommend this slow, thoughtful novel.