Next month, we will be reading THE GARDEN OF EVENING MISTS by Tan Twan Eng.This novel was nominated for the 2012 Man Booker Prize and it looks fabulous. I can't wait to read it!
Summary: 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
Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? Why is it that Yun
Ling's friend and host Magnus Praetorius, seems to 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? -- Weinstein Books
Last evening, my book club met to discuss THE GARDEN OF EVENING MISTS by Tan Twan Eng. My friend who selected this novel absolutely loved it, and I think it's safe to say that, while we probably weren't as enthusiastic as she was, we all appreciated this story. You can read more about my thoughts here.
I admit that it took us quite awhile to get around to discussing the book. We are all friends and some of us only see each other once a month at our book club meetings. Needless to say, we had a lot of catching up to do with our personal lives (and our kids' personal lives!) After about an hour or so of chit chat, we decided to get down to business. Our leader for the night wasn't able to find a formal discussion guide, but she did have a few questions prepared. We all had lots of thoughts about the novel, though, so I don't even think we needed questions to guide our discussion.
First of all, we thought the author's writing style was very impressive. His descriptions of the setting and especially the Japanese gardens were exquisite. However, he also wove a tale that was extremely complex. I mean this in both a good and not-so-good way. While it was almost amazing how the story (and the side stories) all came together, a few of us found ourselves getting lost at times (but I think the foreign terms and names added to our confusion.)
Another interesting discussion point was how this novel kept us guessing... and thinking. It is safe to say that that we were surprised quite a few times by the actions of the characters. We also discussed the ending and what could have happened to one of the main characters. The story ending was pretty ambiguous, but we agreed that it didn't bother us in this story like it does in some other ones. I'm still not sure we are all in agreement as to what happened!
While THE GARDEN OF EVENING MISTS was a pretty dark and depressing story, we all liked how there were a recurring theme of love woven into it. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I thought the novel was upbeat by any means, but I did appreciate the message that love helps us to survive even the most horrible of circumstances.
Next month, we will be reading TRUTH IN ADVERTISING by John Kenney. I'm pretty excited about this selection because so many of the reviews are outstanding. It's a little outside of our normal comfort zone but I'm sure it will generate a great deal of discussion.
Fortunately, it gets worse.
He learns that his long-estranged and once-abusive father has fallen
ill. And that neither his brothers nor his sister intend to visit. It’s a
wake-up call for Fin to re-evaluate the choices he’s made, admit that
he’s falling for his coworker Phoebe, question the importance of diapers
in his life, and finally tell the truth about his life and his past.
In the spirit of Then We Came to the End and This Is Where I Leave You, novelist John Kenney, a regular New Yorker
contributor, mines his own advertising background to creating this
moving debut, nothing short of “a masterful blend of wit and
seriousness, stunning in its honesty” (Booklist, starred review). -- Touchstone