Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Garden of Evening Mists - #35

Image sourced from here
I'm going to do something in this post that I have noticed no one else who has done a "proper" review that I have read of this book has done. In fact, two things. By proper I mean reviews that have been published in old school places like literary reviews, and book sections of newspapers. I tend to read a book then have a quick look around the web for other peoples thoughts. Today's scout disappointed me.

So here it is.
1. I am not going to spoil the book. Unlike every review I have read, I am not going to give away a plot twist or the end of the book. Seriously. Who thinks that's a good idea?
2. I'm going to get my facts right. Most reviews I have read spout all these fact of what happens in the book. I just read it and they are wrong. Did they even bother reading the book? Or just the blurb on the back and some Goodreads or Amazon reviews? Bah.

After that build up. I really enjoyed it. REALLY! The book is the story of a Supreme Court judge in  Malaysia who retires (first chapter, not a spoiler). She heads up to a house she owns in the Cameron Highlands, and meets up with an old friend who still lives in the area. We then get told the story of her now, mixed with the stories of her past. We learn about the area, her history, the history of the country and about the Garden of Evening Mists.

What I loved about this book was the sereneness. The calmness. The stillness. I expected that when we were being walked through a beautiful, sculpted Japanese garden with Taoist, Buddhist and Shinto elements. What I didn't expect was it to trickle out of the garden and into the other elements of the book. Even the more violent or destructive parts of the book. I found that to be quite a skill.

I enjoyed the book also as it gave me a peek at the Pacific element of WWII. I am a bit over the European war stories. But this was a part of the war that we were directly a part of in some instances, but we talk very little about. And this was told from the perspective of not only the Malaysian Chinese, but the Japanese as well. Both of these are sides we never hear here in Aus. Then also, the aftermath of the war, with the instability of Malaya before it became Malaysia. I find it astounding we have so many Malays and Malaysian Chinese in Australia, yet we are taught nothing about their history, even the modern stuff. Sometimes I wonder if this is not more relevant than some European history. Mind you, didn't learn a lot of that either.

I definitely recommend this as a read. I enjoyed the journey the book took me on. I liked that there was another character in the book that was the garden itself. I am wondering how much gardening advice I can take out of this book to apply to my own overgrown, chaotic garden to instill into it some of the tranquility this book gave me.


  1. Nice review, Rusalka. Your comments about the sereneness, stillness are apt. Isn't it amazing how a book can be set around a war and be calm?

    1. Sorry Judy, been in Thailand for the last week.
      It's amazing hey? The fact that there is guerrilla warfare or a major world war occurring throughout large parts of the book doesn't dispel the feeling at all.
      Can't wait to read his other book. I'm hoping it is different enough without losing this skill of tone and atmosphere.