Borrowing from the emptiness: a review of The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Remembrance and forgetting guide the multilayered narratives of Tan Twan Eng’s Book-prize-nominated The Garden of Evening Mists. So important are they that they’re personified as statues of twin goddesses within the titular Japanese-style garden that is found high in the mountains of Malaya.

Garden of Evening Mists

“The first stone in my life had been set down years ago, when I had heard of Aritomo’s garden. Everything that had happened since then had brought me to this place in the mountains, this moment in time. Instead of consoling me, this knowledge left me fearful of where my life would lead.

I began to speak.

– The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng

Remembrance and forgetting guide the multilayered narratives of Tan Twan Eng’s luminous, Booker Prize nominated The Garden of Evening Mists. So important are they that they’re personified as statues of twin goddesses within the titular Japanese-style garden that is found high in the mountains of Malaya. Teoh Yun Ling, a senior judge retiring from the Malaysian bench, is caught between different periods of her life, of remembering and forgetting.

Yun Ling has kept the reason for her retirement, and her subsequent return to the Cameron Highlands, secret from all but a few people: she has been diagnosed with aphasia, which means she will slowly lose her memories and her ability to process the meaning of words at all. Terrified but determined, she flees to the tea estate that once belonged to Aritomo Nakamura, a Japanese expatriate fabled for being the disgraced gardener of the Japanese emperor. This is not the first time she has made this journey. When she was 19, she and her sister Yun Hong were captured by the Japanese. The more attractive Yun Hong was pressed into service as a “comfort girl” for the soldiers. Ironically, her only escape came in the form of daydreams about Japanese gardens, an art form she fell in love with when the family visited Japan years earlier.

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Saturday Sundries: My favourite books of 2012

Monoceros This is how you Lose Her Zoo City

I can’t help but take stock at this time of year. The time between Christmas and New Year’s always feels so liminal, a week in between the year that was and the year that is yet to be. I’m so pleased with how the blog has grown this year, and in particular with the interest and participation in the Cloud Atlas readalong.

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I’d like to thank all of you who have read my ramblings and my opinions, and who have taken the time to comment, as well!

And now, after much pondering, I’ve come up with a list of my favourite-favourite books of everything I read in 2012! If there’s one thing going through this list has taught me, I’m a little bit lax in reviewing books I love. I tend to put them aside, bathing in their glow and planning on writing nice things about them, and then moving on. So, if ever there was a book-related resolution for me, it’s this: write the glowing five-star reviews just as often as I write the more critical reviews!

In chronological reading order, my favourites of 2012 are:

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