The Garden of Evening Mists
by Tan Twan Eng
Tan Twan Eng has set his novel in wartime Malaysia during the Japanese occupation from 1941–45. Although the novel takes place here, the center of the novel is a Japanese garden and its creator, a man who had once been gardener to the emperor. Although we are shifted back and forth in time, the jungles and mountains of Malaysia are never far away. We learn much about the aesthetics behind Japanese gardens as well as the art of Japanese tattooing. I would recommend this book for anyone wishing to understand the history of World War II in Malaysia as well as readers who have an interest in Japanese gardens. A truly diverse and absorbing novel. Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2012. I also recommend his earlier novel The Gift of Rain that takes place in Malaysia during the waning of the British Empire.
“The Garden of Evening Mists offers action-packed, end-of-empire storytellingx…x.” – The Independent
“Tan triumphs again, entwining the redemptive power of storytelling with the elusive search for truth, all the while juxtaposing Japan’s inhumane war history with glorious moments of Japanese art and philosophy. All readers in search of spectacular writing will not be disappointed.” – Library Journal
“On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the emperor of Japan. Not many people would have known of him before the war, but I did. He had left his home on the rim of the sunrise to come to the central highlands of Malaya. I was seventeen years old when my sister first told me about him. A decade would pass before I traveled up the mountain to see him. He did not apologize for what his countrymen had done to my sister and me. Not on that rain-scratched morning when we met, nor at any other time.” – The Garden of Evening Mists, Weinstein Books, 2012 edition.
by Dinah Jefferies
The Separation first and foremost is an engrossing novel, one that is not easy to put down. Yet, layered within the touching tale of a mother separated from her children, is a story of a dangerous and difficult time in Malaysia’s history, the period after World War II. The author spent her early years in Malaysia and she draws from her memories to create the background of a country rich with beauty, intriguing smells and color. Although some of the narrative takes place in England, we are left mainly with the atmospheric deep jungles, fascinating people and complicated politics of Asia. It is in these passages we feel the author’s memories come most vividly to life.
“This is a worthy debut that not only provides insight on this dark moment in Malaya’s history, but is also an ode to maternal love …” – Teresa Chan, South China Morning Post
“Whether she is transporting us to the colourful Chinese quarter of Malacca with its ‘clickety-clack chorus’ of mah-jong players or whisking us away to colonial homes with coconut palms and golden hibiscus shrubs, Jefferies’ writing is vibrantly descriptive and superbly evocative.” – Pam Norfolk, Lancashire Evening Post
“In the old Chinese quarter, they elbowed their way through the flowing current of people and dodged an army of bicycle-pulled rickshaws. Cicely led her through a backstreet market, where mah-jong players provided a clickety-clack chorus to bright blue birds singing in bamboo cages. Cicely nodded and smiled, rubbing shoulders with Chinese shopkeepers and Malay street hawkers. She stopped beside a bucket of live deep-sea crabs, and came away with packets of food.” – The Separation, Penguin Books, 2014.