Review by: Francis Pavri
If you want to read something “local” try these two books – The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng and Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw. Although not “domestic local”, the settings of the books are in Malaysia and China, both of which are somewhat familiar. Use of Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese are peppered throughout the texts.
Both writers Tan Twan Eng and Tash Aw have very similar backgrounds. Both are Malaysians and did the early education there. Both went to read Law in England and practiced for a while. Both then became full time writers as a result of their very successful writing. They are also about the same age.
These two books have both been long listed for the Man Booker Prize.
Tan’s book is set in Malaysia (mainly Cameron Highlands) – about a Malaysian girl Teoh Yun Ling whose sister suffered severe treatment during the Japanese Occupation. The story relates how she slowly came to terms with it with the help of a Aritomo a former gardener of the Imperial Emperor of Japan, who helped her create a garden in her sister’s memory.
His writing is exquisite. For example, this is how he describes the art of Taiji.
She moved with such slowness that I felt I was watching time being stretched out, the world around us sucked in by her energy as she went through a series of motions, one flowing seamlessly into another, water pouring into water, air merging with air. She executed the moves with such grace and controlled power that she seemed to be gliding inside spheres of reduced gravity.
This book is available from the National Library Singapore.
The Garden of Evening Mists – Call Number: English TAN