THE GARDEN OF EVENING MISTS

Tan Twan Eng

Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone

survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks

solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of

Cameron Highlands. 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 memory of her

sister, who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses but agrees to accept Yun

Ling as his apprentice “until the monsoon comes.”

more …

Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone

survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks

solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of

Cameron Highlands. 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 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 the gardener

and his art, while all around them a communist guerilla war rages. But the

Garden of Evening Mists remains a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and

how did he come to leave Japan? And is the real story of how Yun Ling

managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?

less …
  • Weinstein Books
  • Paperback
  • September 2012
  • 352 Pages
  • 9781602861800

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About Tan Twan Eng

Tan Twan Eng was born in Penang, Malaysia. He

divides his time between Kuala Lumpur and Cape Town. The Gift of Rain,

his first novel, was Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His second and

latest novel, The Garden of Evening Mists, was Shortlisted for the Man

Booker Prize 2012 and won the Man Asian Literary Prize (March 2013),

and the Walter Scott Prize (2013).

Praise

“A strong quiet novel of eloquent mystery.”—The New York Times Book

Review

“Grace and empathy infuse this melancholy landscape of complex loyalties

enfolded by brutal history, creating a novel of peculiar, mysterious, tragic

beauty.”—The Kirkus Review, STARRED REVIEW

“Like his debut, The Gift of Rain (2007), Tan’s second novel is exquisite…

Tan triumphs again.”—Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Beautifully written…Eng is quite simply one of the best novelists writing

today.”—Philadelphia Inquirer

Discussion Questions

The author introduces Yun Ling as she is entering

retirement, and slowly reveals the key experiences that

have shaped her life. What was your initial impression

of the main character and how did it change as the novel

progressed?

As a research clerk in the war crimes tribunal directly after the war,

Yun Ling is intimately involved in the national process of punishment

and healing after the horrors of the Japanese invasion. Yet, she is hardly

healed, and she has her own motives for this work. Can the Japanese

crimes be forgiven?

Violence is a frequent presence in Yun Ling’s life, from the labor camp

to the CT invasion to the destruction of her memory. How does she

cope with the trauma of these events? Is she successful?

Not just violence, but sexual violence is a factor in the novel. How

did you grapple with Yun Hong’s experience as one of the “comfort

women” in the camp and the shame she felt as a result?

Intertwined with the traumatic episodes, art – including literature,

painting, and, of course, garden design – appears constantly in

the book. Consider some key examples (i.e., Yun Hong’s painting,

the supposed Golden Lily hoard, Yugiri itself) and discuss their

importance to the novel.

Aritomo’s final artistic work is not a garden but a horimono, a tattoo

covering much of Yun Ling’s battered body. What is the significance of

this act to their relationship and to the novel?

There is a constant struggle between memory and forgetting in

the novel. How does the experience of the camp change Yun Ling’s

relationship to memory?

Frederik and Yun Ling have a brief encounter when she first arrives at

Majuba estate, and he makes it clear that he has strong feelings for her

throughout the book. Why do you think Yun Ling chooses Aritomo

over Frederik?

Why does Yun Ling, after all her searching and striving, choose not to

use the possible clues from her horimono to try and locate her camp?

Is this a hopeful novel?