Book Review

The Garden of Evening Mists By Tan Twan Eng | Book Review

Hello Everyone! I will be manufacturing a review for a novel called ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ by Tan Twan Eng today. Before we get into the review, I would like to thank Pansing for sending this novel to me in exchange for a review on my platform. Without further ado, let us get into the review section!


It’s Malaya, 1949. After studying law at Cambridge and time spent helping to prosecute Japanese war criminals, Yun Ling Teoh, herself the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed plantations of Northern Malaya where she grew up as a child. 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 Kuala Lumpur, 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 her sensei and his art while, outside the garden, the threat of murder and kidnapping from the guerrillas of the jungle hinterland increases with each passing day. But the Garden of Evening Mists is also a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? Why is it that Yun Ling’s friend and host, Magnus Praetorius, seems almost immune from the depredations of the Communists? What is the legend of ‘Yamashita’s Gold’ and does it have any basis in fact? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?

My Introspection:

This is, hands down, one of the most beautiful books I have read this year. Everything from the writing to the structure of the story is just superlative. Although it has some minor flaws here and there, I still thought that the story was extremely well-constructed. I took a couple of weeks off from reviewing this novel because I know I need to let my mind wrap around what I read before I construct an insightful review and that is exactly what I did.

“I have become a collapsing star, pulling everything around it, even the light, into an ever-expanding void. Once I lose all ability to communicate with the world outside myself, nothing will be left but what I remember. My memories will be like a sandbar, cut off from the shore by the incoming tide. In time they will become submerged, inaccessible to me. The prospect terrified me. For what is a person without memories? A ghost, trapped between worlds, without an identity, with no future, no past.” – Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists.

Take a look at the passage above, that is the type of writing style that appears in the novel. The writing style is filled with purple prose and does it grate on my nerves? The answer is a big no. I thought the purple prose expiated the novel well because the novel has a gloomy and morbid atmosphere around it that the purple prose becomes the stream of light in the caliginous ambience and that definitely benefited the story. Other than that, I thought the writing style was crisp as well as the author is able to convey the message through the novel effectively. Honestly, there is so much to say when it comes to the writing style but I am not going to bore you with more information other than the beautiful purple prose and how crisp the writing style is because the writing style is for you to experience and no matter how much I say, it is not going to give the proper amount of justice to it. So, do experience it on your own.

This novel has one of the most dynamic casts of characters I have ever seen in literature. All of them have their own backstory and although we follow Yun Ling (main character) throughout the novel, we are still able to glimpse at the lives of other characters other than Yun Ling. So, the important characters are Yun Ling, Aritomo and Tatsuji.

Yun Ling goes through a series of character development throughout the novel and I loved it so freaking much. She started off really acrimonious with the Japanese and straight-up ruthless with them because of what the Japanese had done to her and her sister and then she slowly let go of the hatred and I thought that that was very well-written because she did not just let it go immediately but she let it go gradually which is a more realistic approach to life. Aritomo is an interesting character and I enjoyed the way he interacted with Yun Ling and how he opened up to her about his life as they have gotten closer over time. Tatsuji is a person who collects horimono and Aritomo’s art pieces after he disappeared to write a book on it and when he recounts his story of the war to Yun Ling, I almost sobbed. If you are looking for a book that will make you cry, read this.

The pacing is not the best part of the novel. I thought it dragged sometimes and some scenes in the novel flew by too quickly. For example, the scenes about the guerrillas went by so quickly that I cannot actually understand the guerrillas intentions and why they did what they did. The scenes that dragged are normally scenes that can be cut out of the novel and it will make no difference in the end. However, I think the pacing is still tolerable and it is not one of the worst pacings I have ever encountered.

The focus of this novel is not on the romance as there is barely any romance in it. The focus is on the struggle of a courageous woman who had lost her sister to the war, who had been through the war, who held on to the hatred for so long that the flame was eating her up and a woman who finally let go of the flame in the end. So, please do not go into this novel expecting a romance to blossom because I know I did, oops. #theregrets

In conclusion, I am bestowing this novel with a 90% (A+) rating. It is a remarkable novel that promulgates the Japanese invasion in Malaya and the Malayan Emergency to mainstream audiences as there aren’t many novels that focus on the Japanese invasion in Malaya. Thus, I highly recommend you to read this novel.

This is the end of my review for The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng! I hope you all enjoyed it and follow me with your email/Wordpress account to get notifications when I post a new article! Bye!

8 thoughts on “The Garden of Evening Mists By Tan Twan Eng | Book Review

  1. I read this two years ago and then I had a chance to visit w Japanese Garden. It was such a rewarding read and I was so blessed to be able to visit a Japanese Garden after reading it. A treasure! ♥️

    Liked by 1 person

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