The Garden of Evening Mists is a war-time novel of great power. Initially, I sank into a story of Zen peacefulness, which recurred from time to time, adding a punctuation of pace to the plot. These quasi-spiritual excursions were useful in that they provided a stark and shocking contrast with the war occurring outside the garden.
Attempting to write of a Japanese master teaching the creation of a Zen garden, set against his own people’s cruelty to his own apprentice during the Malaysian war, was a difficult task of authorship, but one with which Twan Eng succeeded. The ending surprised me in that the thus-far quasi-mystical relationship between master and apprentice was broken by the reality of war.
The description of the cruelty suffered in Japanese prison camps by women was powerful – rather too powerful occasionally. But it served as a stark contrast to the delicate philosophy of the master-designer of the garden. A book dealing with two extremes – of Zen contemplation and war – not to be forgotten.
The Garden of Evening Mists is available on Amazon