Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Book Review No. 23: The Garden of Evening Mists

The blurb from the back of the book reads:
In the highlands of Malaya, a woman sets out to build a memorial to her sister, killed at the hands of the Japanese during the brutal Occupation of their country. Yun Ling's quest leads her to The Garden of Evening Mists, and to Aritomo, a man of extraordinary skill and reputation, once the gardener of the Emperor of Japan. When she accepts his offer to become his apprentice, she begins a journey into her past, inextricably lined with the secrets of her troubled country's history.

But, you know what? I don't think the blurb does this book any justice. Reading that would not encourage me to pick up and read the book, so it was lucky that this was a Book Club choice otherwise I would probably never have come across it. Is that the real point of Book Clubs, do you think? To encourage members to read books they might otherwise never have chosen for themselves? Or is it just an excuse to get together and have a natter? A bit of both, I think.

So, how to describe/discuss this book? It's a slow burner. It took me quite a while to really get in to it (and the jumping back and forth chronologically doesn't help), but I think that has a lot to do with the style of the writing and the fact that the story itself starts off very slowly and gently. It's certainly not a page-turner in the sense that you are anxious to find of what happens next, racing through chapter after chapter; it's probably more a book that you would curl up in a comfy chair with and let yourself become lost in the world that is Yugiri - The Garden of Evening Mists.

But it's not altogether a comfortable read; the parts where the narrator describes her time in a Japanese POW camp are disturbing, and the details of the attacks carried out in Malaysia by the Communist Terrorists (CTs) are very unpleasant. That aside, the book really draws you in to the time and place. The descriptions of the garden that Yun Ling (the narrator) and Aritomo (the gardener) create together are beautiful; the way in which the story is told is enveloping and graceful. I am so glad to have read this book and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to read a story that they can become fully immersed in. And relaaaax.

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