The Garden of Evening Mists

  • by Tan Twan Eng
  • Narrated by Anna Bentinck
  • 15 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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?

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Customer Reviews

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"Everything Beautiful and Sorrowful About Life"

'On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan.'

Teoh Yun Ling retires from her position as a Supreme Court judge in the courts of Kuala Lumpur after discovering that she has aphasia, a disease that will soon render her unable to communicate (already she has flashes where she recognizes nothing). Questioning what she will become when she is cut off from the world, she realizes that the memories she has worked hard to forget will be her only anchor to the real world, without them she will be "a ghost, trapped between worlds, without an identity." Remembering will require her to uncover that past - - this is Yun Ling's story.

When her affluent family is captured during the Japanese occupation of Malaysia, Yun Ling and her sister are sent to a brutal prisoner of war camp. The girls find solace from the cruelties the Japanese soldiers inflict upon them by remembering a beautiful Japanese garden they once visited in Kyoto. Only Yun Ling survives the camp, and sets out to create a Japanese garden to honor her sister. Her mission takes her to Yugiri - the mountain "garden of evening mists" and its master gardener Aritomo, former gardener for Emperor Hirohito. To complete her quest, she must reckon her bitter resentment of all things Japanese to become Aritomo's apprentice. In the process, Yun Ling begins to recall all the horrors of her past, what it really took for her to survive, and the involvement of her Japanese teacher, Aritomo.

This is a complex and layered novel with intertwined themes of remembering and forgetting, moral ambiguity, scars and healing, and other characters with back stories of their own. The metaphors of the garden become the words too painful for the haunted characters to vocalize; the cycle of the garden carries the story through to the realization and self-healing. Author Tan Twan Eng also uses the cultural practices of Zen philosophy, the cultivation of tea, archery, and the secretive art of horimono (Japanese body tattoo) to shape the characters and reflect their journeys.

Reader's that enjoy all of the nuances of frost melting on a stone, or the slow twirling descent of a leaf from a tree, will find this book to be an exquisite journey that "captures everything beautiful and sorrowful about life." It is so beautifully constructed that there isn't a single flaw, and reminded me of looking at an orchid and contemplating the pure beauty. But, like a garden growing...it is a slow process that sometimes seemed like watching grass grow. I'm not saying I didn't like this--only that it is like taking baby steps through a journey of a thousand miles. One complaint I do have is the narrator. Her voice is lovely--very English--but the accents she uses for the characters are so inconsistent and off that she often confounds the story, making it hard to follow. I would have preferred to hear her read without the characterizations. Ethereal and transcendent, somewhat like tai chi...slow and meditative, good selection for the right kind of reader.
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- Mel

The best

Oh. My. Goodness. Such a memorable book: The Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng. A marvelous story, set in Malaya (Malaysia) during the years following WWII, but with lots of flashbacks to the Japanese occupation. The author is a meticulous wordsmith with the ability to use metaphors that took my breath away, but without being overwritten. The story is, well, sprawling, and with its threads tightly braided. It's a mystery (actually several), an exploration of Japanese gardening, the history of tattoos in the Orient, tea - its growing and drinking....and more. Be ye not put off; for me it was so worth the time. And one of the very few books I wanted to read again, right away, to parse out all the nuances, clues and allusions. By the same author: The Gift of Rain, which I also enjoyed immensely.

This is also the most astonishing narration I've heard. The accents!
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- Susan Gardner Bowers "Susu"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-03-2012
  • Publisher: Recorded Books