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 ?

books ,booker ,literature prize ?

Well I stuck my nose in a conversation about the booker prize and the new prize announced this week as a counter to the booker ,now I view the new prize as a positive move the booker has been around unchallenged as the premier prize for literary fiction in the english speaking world for a long time ,so like most things that have had control of a market for a long time maybe it has got a little flabby at the waist and let its self go a bit and standards have dropped  .The new prize is in part a reaction to this years jury which in literary terms is a little lightweight and the choices of long list and shortlist have sparked much discussion on what the booker means in people’s eyes ,also a comment by the judge Chris Mullins in regards readability of the books he choose .I had long been a fan of the booker and have read many shortlisted booker books over years .

So what does the booker mean to me as a prize well I look at literary fiction a like Everest we maybe have to be like sir Edmund Hilary reach the peak  but then climbing didn’t stop and give up ,no but like all climbers we look for the new unclimbed peaks however hard ,or the new route up the mountain via a new path ,or a new way of climbing that maybe dangerous or innovative  and I think this metaphor works for the booker and reading for me in general I like to challenge myself . This is what reading  as the climbing metaphor  is ,not for climbing the same route or going to Ben Nevis and making out it is a hard as climbing Everest ! So that said what does this reader look for in his booker shortlists and winners well I ve a few things, and will use previous winners and shortlisters to show what I look for and why I think the prize has drifted of late as most of the books mention are pre 2003  –

 

Language 

I like a book that shows the bounds of the english languages and what can be done with it I perfect example would be James Kelman how late it was ,how late a book that showed the ability of language and regional accents a book wrote in a clear broad Glaswegian accent was it readable well if you were from Glasgow yes but otherwise it was a wonderful insight into how broken english can be shattered and remade in Scotland into a brutal but effective language that suits its setting .

Genre expanding  

Now I m going pick two books both works of magic realism the are Midnights children by Salman Rushdie  and Famished road by Ben Okri both winners in the 80’s They both approached the Magic realism genre in different ways Rushdie use it as a blueprint for the tale of modern India ,Okri as a way to open village life in Africa and Africa myths to the reader .Keneally Schindler’s ark also did same for biographical novels .#

sets a new mark 

I like books that when you read you can say that will be cited for years after as a turning point in fiction .I ve got a recent winner in mind Wolf hall I think even thou I didn’t really enjoy it ,I can see it being a book that has raised the bar on historic fiction and  will be the one the people say was a game changer and will be the one people read to get inspired to write historic fiction .

just talent 

Now some writers just oozes talent now around booker shortlist it is obvious who has influenced english literary fiction for years people like Beryl Bainbridge and William Trevor although neither won a booker both have had multiple short-listed books  over 20 plus years why because the constantly show the bounds of the English language Peter Carey and J M Coetzee have both won on more than one occasion and this  is due to there talent as writers both try to set a new path to follow  with each new  book and usually succeed in showing how you can be different even in the same field of fiction .

There are the things I look for in a winner books that try to climb Everest set new marks and leave me as a reader want more ,I think the rot set in with the booker in 2003 the short lists since then have been weaker that earlier ones so a new prize is welcome and well all be able to judge what difference it has made to the booker and what direction the new prize is set in .Although I must note it is a missed chance for a general prize for  literary fiction that also including translations   published within in a year .I personally think this hasn’t happened because it would show how much great fiction is coming to readers from outside the English speaking world !! that does all of what I state in the qualities of a booker winner and usually far better

What do you think ?

the long song by Andrea levy

Andrea grew up in britain after her parents came here in the empire windrush in the late 40’s ,a subject she touched on ,in the novel small island .She didn’t start writing til here 30’s and since has had a rise with every novel this is her fifth and is shortlisted for the booker .The novel drifts us back to the Jamaica of the 1800’s where slavery is still in place and the slave July we follow her life from her birth after her mother was raped to her entering service for a vicious english women Caroline Mortimer ,where she is beaten and stab with pins and other things on a regular basis for no apparent reason or little provocation .Meanwhile in the outside world there are great changes underfoot rebellions and just glimpses of freedom for the slaves . to the arrival of a new overseer with a new way of treating slaves ,kindly with is slightly more liberal view of doing the work .

July threw herself upon the floor ,held the dress aloft and yelled, missus ,the dress spoil! Them mash-up your dress .It messed up ,it mess up .Oh beat me ,missus come on beat me ! the dress spoil ,spoil,spoil come tek a whip and beat me I beggin you missus .

July expecting a beating from the violent mistress caroline .

Now this is written in a style of Jamaican english or patois that was spoken by the slaves a relaxed english .July comes across as a highly realistic character that has a hard life and you feel her injustices and triumphs along the way .Levy seems to want to bring some of her own family’s history forward and had done maticlious research for this novel in Jamaica and the uk looking back on records of the time and the slaves life ,Which she described in an interview I heard as a hard task as there was a lot of side information number jobs etc but little or none on how the slaves felt at the time .what Levy has done is capture a young girls struggle to womanhood in the most difficult of circumstances .A book for anyone interested in the history of the time and how slaves lives really were on the plantations

This is one of this years booker shortlist .

booker shortlist !

well the booker been announced and here are the 4 shortlisted books for the booker ,and what a bunch they are sure see a rush in sales for them .

HOWARDS END BY E M FORSTER

A story of a family the fourth novel from this up and coming writer ,his last room with a view was shortlist for the booker but only made shortlist .is the bookies favourite at moment !

THE HISTORY OF MR POLLY BY H G WELLS

A comic novel by the past booker winner ,we follow Alfred Pollys story in this funny novel

P SMITH IN THE CITY BY P G WODEHOUSE

An interesting character from Wodehouse a new young novelist with a grand hand at comic writing ,all about mike and psmith also a dollop of cricket thrown in for a good turn .

PRESTER JOHN  BY JOHN BUCHAN

A novel about david crawfords adventures in spouthern africa during the recent zulu uprisng a novel about our empire ,the judges said

Well  thats the booker 1910 shortlist what do you think ?

will these books stand the test of time ?

lost booker shortlist 1970

LOST BOOKER 1970

Earlier in the year a long list was published for the books that missed out in 1970 On booker prize when the date was changed .

The Birds on the Trees by Nina Bawden (Virago)-this book is about a 19-year-old growing up in middle class family .
Troubles by J G Farrell (Phoenix) this was the first in the trilogy ,the second siege won the booker in 1973 .It was made in to a film in 1988.
The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard (Virago)-Hazzard won the miles franklin award one of australis most prestigious awards in 2004
Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault (Arrow)-a book about Alexander the great Renault wrote both fiction and non fiction about Alexander
The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark (Penguin)-best known for prime of Jean Brodie ,this was one of her favourite books .
The Vivisector by Patrick White (Vintage)- White won the nobel prize in 1973 and the solid mandala is probably his best book .

these are the six announced today on the shortlist of them Farrell had won in 1973 with the siege of Krisnapaur ,Sparks had been shortlisted twice in 1969 and 1981 ,Bawden had been shortlist in 1987 .the other three White ,Renault and Hazzard had never been shortlisted .I only read books by Sparks ,White and farell but not the ones on the list .`

have you read any of these books ?

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