‘On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan’
This is the first sentence of the book ‘The garden of evening mists’ by Tan Twan Eng. This opening immediately shows the mystical side of the story. The storyline of the book is very nice, mostly because the reader only understands the whole story at the end of the book.
In every flashback, you learn a little bit more about the main character, this brings you closer to her, which is very impressive. During the book you also get flashbacks from other characters like Tatsuji. And the way you discover the same things as Teoh at the same time is something really positive about the book.
One thing that wasn’t very clear was when a flashback ended or started, which can be really confusing for the reader. Another thing that made the book hard to read were the many metaphors Tan Twan Eng used. Some were beautiful but there were a bit too much, which made the story move a bit slowly sometimes.
A beautiful chapter is the story of Tatsuji which it is very emotional. Tan Twan Eng really brings you to the emotions of the character, which is very beautiful to read.
‘The garden of evening mists’ is about a women, Teoh Yun Ling, a Malaysian retired judge. When she finds out she has a disease aphasia which means that she will soon forget all her memories. And to remember her memories better, she returns to the Cameron Highlands of Malaya, where she lived for a while.
Some flashbacks she has are the ones of her time in the Camp of the Japanese occupation of Malaya. She had to live there with her sister, Hong Yun, who didn’t survive the war. The only thing that helped her during the camp and to get over those trauma’s were the Japanese gardens, which she thought were beautiful. Teoh promised her sister to build a Japanese garden, and when she got away of the camp, she searched for an gardener. She found him, Nakamura Aritomo, he said he could only take her as an apprentice, so that she could later build her own garden. She agrees and later they even became lovers.
Nakamura Aritomo used to be the gardener of the Japanese Emperor and was seen as an artist. But no one really knew something about his life. Japanese professor Yoshikawa Tatsuji is very interested in the work of Aritomo and wants to meet with Teoh. She agrees and they discover that Aritomo was involved in a covert Japanese program ‘Golden Lily’ during the war. That group hid looted treasures (lots of art) from occupied territories. When people went to look for those treasures, they hid them in the mines en let them fall down. They did that because they didn’t want that anyone would find them. This is something that Aritomo did in the war that wasn’t so good, but she gets over that because she has done some bad things to. This is very important because they destroyed the camp where her sister was after she ran away. Teoh came back to search for her, but everything was destroyed so she couldn’t find the place anymore.
When they discovered this, she understood why Aritomo tattooed something on her back, this was the map of where the camp was place before it was destroyed. When she discovered this, she decides not to go there because that time was long ago.
Sometimes a bit confusing, but mostly written in a beautiful way. Also a compliment for the first sentence, which is beautiful.