Malaya, 1949. After studying law at Cambrige 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 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 Kuala Lumpur, 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 her sensei and his art while, outside the garden, the threat of murder and kidnapping from the guerrillas of the jungle hinterland increases with each passing day.
But the Garden of Evening Mists is also a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? Why is it that Yun Ling’s friend and host Magnus Praetorius, seems to almost immune from the depredations of the Communists? What is the legend of ‘Yamashita’s Gold’ and does it have any basis in fact? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?
‘Tan Twan Eng wields a masterful pen. There’s a mass of local colour oozing from this novel…the detail in the garden is recounted in a way that ensures fascination rather than boredom…On a simple level, the novel envelops the reader as the story unfolds. However, it’s not just a great story, it’s also a gossamer web of metaphors and levels of understanding that encourage the reader to look deeper. The twists are brilliantly (and gently) introduced. They crept up on me but, in retrospect, the signs were there, creating the urge to start the book again as soon as I’d finished, knowing from the beginning what I’d learnt at the end…Indeed, I learnt a lot from The Garden of Evening Mists but the one thing that will stay with me is that it’s possible for a book to be as soul-drenchingly poignant as it is beautiful. Reading this isn’t an experience you’re going to forget for a long, long time.’ Ani Johnson, The Bookbag
‘From the book’s second paragraph, I found myself utterly absorbed by Tan’s characters, captivated by their histories and, especially by how the paths of their separate lives intersected and finally converged at Yugiri – the garden of evening mists.’ Daphne Lee, thestar.com, 28.02.12
‘Every now and then a book comes my way that opens a new level of perception. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng is one.
The prose is elegant, considered, every word carefully placed. Frequently you have to stop and savour an image, rain dripping from leaves, a heron circling … it is like the garden itself, where every leaf and branch, every stone and rock, is placed for maximum effect.
Tea ceremonies and archery, the mystique of tattoos, light lanterns to speed the dead, nuns praying in mountain fastnesses – this gentle and poetic book opens a path into a very different culture. It is to be cherished.’ Jennifer de Klerk, Artslink.co.za
‘this is a beautiful, dark and wistful exploration of loss and remembrance that, appropriately, will stay with you long after reading.’ Andrew Marszal, The Telegraph, 04.08.12
‘This is a novel that overflows with historical and specialist information, and like The Gift of Rain, it showcases Tan Twan Eng as a master of cultural complexities.’ Kapka Kassabova, guardian.co.uk, 24.08.12
“[A] strong quiet novel [of] eloquent mystery.” Dominique Browning, New York Times Book Review, 02.09.12
“Overall, this was a stunning book, one thoroughly deserving of the Booker nomination, and one that deserves to win.” Becci, Waterstones Manager – Worcester, 25.09.12
“Simply one of the best novelists writing today” Frank Wilson, philly.com, 30.09.12
‘This novel uses fine art as its major theme and, in the process, becomes a work of fine art itself.’Carolyn See, Washington Post, 06.10.12
‘The unmissable book of the year for me is THE GARDEN OF EVENING MISTS, by Tan Twan Eng.I found it believable; several of the people I have met who have lived through nightmares – former prisoners of the Khmer Rouge and former Gitmo and death row inmates alike – possess the same faculty.’ Nick Harkaway, The Millions, 05.12.12
This enchanting novel which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is set largely in Malaya, soon after the Second World War….Eng builds an intricate mystery concerning each character’s past, and an unlikely friendship between the pair.’ The New Yorker, 26.11.12
‘A Man Booker prize shortlisted accolade, this is also a novel of mystery and intrigue and dark secrets of a kind that all readers these days delight in, but with an added edge of exploring a period and place little known otherwise.’ The Irish Catholic, Peter Costello, 13.12.12
“Tan Twan Eng’s stunning second novel…is a beautiful, dark and wistful exploration of loss.” – Daily Telegraph, 04.05.13
“The Malaysian author’s second novel merits its loud applause…War, art and memory join in a subtle story, notable for its ravishing prose, glorious sense of place, and mature alertness to the deceptive vistas of history.” – The Independent, 10.05.13
“This is a dark, wistful exploration of loss and rememberance.” – The Sunday Telegraph, 19.05.13
“Described as a novel about memory, this wonderful novel creates a landsape in the reader’s imagination, rich in detail and tender in its telling.” – Parent Talk, September 2013
“This is a richly enigmatic, layered novel, which portrays the complexity of Malaya at that time, as well as the jaggedness of relationships, sensitivity providing multiple glimpses of cultural identities.” – The Good Book Guide, September 2013