The garden of Evening mist by Tan Twan Eng

The Garden of evening mist by Tan Twan Eng

Malaysian fiction

Now this is the second book by Tan Twan Eng to make the booker lists ,his first was longlisted in 2007 .Tan Twan Eng grew up in various places in Malaysia ,eventually becoming a lawyer in the area of intellectual property .He then decide to become a full-time writer ,he published his first book in 2007 the gift of rain ,this book like the garden of evening mist was set in Malaysia and was about the Japanese control of the area in the second world war .This his latest also looks back on that time .

Every child longs for a larger-than-life uncle and, because I had none ,Magnus Pretorious became a figure of fascination to me ,although he hardly anything more than a vague presence in my life when i was growing up .What I knew of him I heard from my parents and from things they left unsaid broken-off twigs of conversations I picked up whenever I walked in on them ,and from what Magnus told me after I got to know him better

Early on remember her past .

So garden of evening mist is a complex book that brings together many themes ,secrets ,love and hate  ,gardening and people .The garden in the title is being made by a famous Japanese gardener in  Malaysia this is after the second world war and this garden is well crafted in the Japanese style of gardening called Sakkei borrowed scenery a Japanese style from the past  that Nakamura Aritomo worked for the emperor in Japan caring for his gardens  .

According to the lay of the land, and depending upon the aspect of the water landscape, you should design each part of the garden tastefully, recalling your memories of how nature presented itself for each feature. (tr. Inaji 1998:13)

A quote found on wiki about Shakkei

The other main character in the book is a Malaysian women Teoh Yun Ling  she survived one of the hideous Japanese war camps during world war two  and hates all things Japanese since then til she meets Nakamura .She is Nakamura apprentice ,this sets up a wonderful parallel of love and hate between these two characters and there initial frostiness   .Throw in the fact that Malaysia itself is undergoing a civil conflicted  and is descending into chaos,Tan has set up to a wonderful book  that encompasses love ,loss and death and the remembrance of the dead .Also add his wonderful eye for the world around him the garden and surrounding area jumps of the page at times and you are transported to the garden of evening mist . You’ve got one of those books I have been crying out for on the booker lists  a discovery.for me this alongside the Will Self I reviewed last week are equal favourites for me .


It was hard for me reading this book and its setting and time not to think back to Anthony Burgess Malaya trilogy set at the same time as this book is also set ,but that book was from the view of a British officer in Malaya ,this was the view of a native and the book is mostly told from Yun Ling view both at the time and looking back as an older women at the time .There was something about Eng style of writing that drew me in at times it reminded me of Romesh Gunesekera a writer I also discovered years ago when he was short-listed for the booker with his book reef  .I think it was the style of prose , that harks back to the greats of English literature  writer like Conrad and dickens (even burgess as I ve mentioned ) .I feel this is a sign of what makes a lot of  Asian writers very readable to me as a reader , because in a way they are removed  from the here and now of what is modern fiction in the uk and tend to have read the classics growing up so on the whole their style harks back to an old age of writing  .It’s fair to say I loved this book probably the best book I ve read published in English this year or even recent years .

Have you read this book ?

Who is your favourite Asian writer ?

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sakura
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 16:25:49

    I agree with you Stu:) It’s beautifully written and as I heard someone say on Newsnight Review, treated the history of that particular time and place with dignity, not an easy task!


  2. Heather
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 17:57:00

    HI Stu. thanks for your message this morning. I am slowly getting back some semblence of normal in my life, yet blogging is not there, yet.

    I haven’t read many asian authors, though it’s been due to lack of time, not want. I have forwarded this review to my sister as I sounds as though she would enjoy it as much as I would. I have moved to to the top of my wish list. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.


    • winstonsdad
      Oct 16, 2012 @ 17:59:07

      I know what you mean when amanda was ill last thing on my mind was the blog slowly getting back into it again hope your sister likes it all the best stu


  3. farmlanebooks
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 20:40:37

    I’m so pleased to see that you loved this book too! I haven’t read Burgess’ Malaya trilogy, but I’m tempted to try it now as this book has sparked an interest in the country. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it wins in a few minutes times.


  4. Caroline
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 07:41:18

    You make this sound so appealing. I really want to read it now.
    Meanwhile we know it hasn’t won the Booker. seems a bit sad, judging from all your positive reactions. It’s not as if Mantel needed another one.
    I’m sadly underread when it comes to Asian authors and want to change that. My readalong next year will include at least one Asian novel.


  5. markbooks
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 09:30:20

    I got this out of the library the other day. I’m really looking forward to giving it a go. It’s just the kind of book I would have overlooked if I’d come across it myself, which shows the beauty of blogging – reviews like yours have persuaded me to give it a shot, and I’m sure I’m going to like it. A MAN Asian contender, presumably?


  6. JoV
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 11:54:54

    I’m pleased you like it so much Stu. I thought it was haunting and riveting. Too bad it didn’t win the Man Booker.


  7. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 17:59:48

    I just finished reading The Gift of Rain which I enjoyed and look forward to reading this eventually as well. It is an intriguing era he writes about and interesting to have an insight into the many perspectives.

    I do enjoy many Asian writers, and recently read and very much enjoyed Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, she is a Cambodian writer, who has written her story in the form of a novel, but experienced most of what transpires. Truly beautiful and a must read.

    I also have a copy of Duong Thu Huong’s latest book The Zenith to read, after reading her Paradise of the Blind, when I was visiting Vietnam about 15 years ago. It would be good to see more Asian titles being promoted to a wider audience, I just adore an inside cultural perspective and books are a wonderful alternative to being there.


  8. Gavin
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 00:33:36

    I have this one on hold at the library and look forward to reading it. I have many favorite Asian writers, including Amitav Ghosh, Rabindranath Tagore and Andrew X Pham.


  9. Chinoiseries
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 17:54:04

    I’ve only read positive reviews so far, Stu, including yours. So Eng’s book reads like a modern classic? Sounds good to me!


  10. claire
    Oct 21, 2012 @ 07:15:18

    I also have read only good about this book. As for Asian writers, my favourites are many, including Yukio Mishima, Vikram Seth, Eileen Chang, etc.


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October 2012


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