The Garden of Evening Mists is the story of Yun Ling Teoh, a survivor of a Japanese POW camp in Malaya during World War 2. Now a lawyer, Yun Ling returns to the hills of the Cameron Highlands to fulfil her dead sister’s dream of creating a Japanese garden.
Her hatred for the Japanese makes it difficult, but she chooses to live and work alongside a Japanese Gardner, Aritomo. A former gardener to the emperor of Japan, Aritomo accepts her as a pupil only “until the monsoon arrives”, for then she can create her own garden. Yun Ling is ultimately drawn in by her master and we are drawn into a world of the various aesthetic principles of Japanese garden making such as Shakkei (borrowed scenery) and Irezumi (the art of Japanese tattoo making). While this relationship folds out within the sphere of the Japanese garden, outside the highlands are ravaged by the communist uprising in Malaysia at the time. This threat of violence intertwined with the mysteries surrounding Aritomo and the survival of Yun Ling in a POW camp herself makes this story an intriguing and memorable read.
NOTE: The book is a wonderful read for those who are interested in Post Colonial History and Literature. Although fictional, much of the story in the book is historically bound with the pre-independence movements in Malaysia in the 1950s.