The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng - review by Ivan Juritz

Ivan Juritz

Occupational Therapy

The Garden of Evening Mists


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Tan Twan Eng’s second novel to draw on the Japanese occupation of Malaya during the Second World War is by turns inventive and ineffective. The Garden of Evening Mists, presented loosely as the memoir of Teoh Yun Ling, a survivor of a Japanese concentration camp turned prosecutor for war crimes, focuses on the enigmatic figure of Nakamura Aritomo, a former gardener to the Japanese emperor. Writing several years later, Yun Ling describes her first encounter with Aritomo, when she asks him to make a memorial garden for the sister she lost in the camp; his refusal leads to her apprenticeship, and from then to their politically and emotionally complex love affair. 

The novel seems to settle into an old woman’s reflections on a union at odds with the dictates of history, charting Yun Ling’s deteriorating memory by erratic jumps in time frame, and playing her search for a suitable way to commemorate her sister’s suffering against her surrender to her weakening

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