Selected Edition: Paperback
ISBN: 978 1 78211 017 0
No. of Pages: 348
SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2012
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng came as a breath of fresh air. I feel like my mind had been clouded, over-populated by reading submissions at work, many of which just could not hold my attention. And then I started to read this, the Man Booker Prize Shortlisted second novel of Malaysian writer Tan Twan Eng…
The prose is beautiful from the first page until the last, sweeping the reader up into the Cameron Highlands, an area of Malaysia (known as Malaya in the time the novel is set) filled with tea plantations and forbidding jungle. Teoh Yun Ling, a recently retired judge, returns to Yugiri, the garden owned and crafted by the former gardener to the Emperor of Japan, Nakamura Aritomo. During the Second World War, and the Japanese occupation of Malaya, Yun Ling had been captured by the Japanese and held in a labour camp along with her sister Yun Hong. Yun Hong does not survive, and her memory and the love that she had for Japanese gardens drives Yun Ling to Yugiri, as she wants Aritomo to design a garden in honour of her sister. The book flashes back and forth between the present day and the past, Yun Ling’s return to Yugiri, and the first time she was there and how she became Aritomo’s apprentice.
I have imposed a ban on buying books at the moment, due to the increasing stack of unread books on my bookshelf and the need to tighten the purse strings at the moment. There are exceptions, of course, just like any good rule. I will still buy the books for the book club (unless I can get hold of them quickly from my local library), and I can still enjoy browsing bookshop shelves for inspiration when a slightly more flush time reveals itself.
I spotted this little gem on the shelves of my local library. Kakuzo Okakura’s Book of Tea is an interesting history of the origins of tea, tea-drinking rituals and practices. I am a big tea-drinker so I loved the description of the benefits of tea, that it ‘was highly prized for possessing the virtues of relieving fatigue, delighting the soul, strengthening the will, and repairing the eyesight.‘ A cup of tea does wonders in my opinion and considering that it is such a big part of our lives now makes it all the more strange to realise that tea met with some opposition when it was first introduced in the 17th century! Some gentleman called Jonas Hanway described how in his opinion ‘men seemed to lose their stature and comeliness, women their beauty through the use of tea‘. I’m not sure what his credentials were but it is funny to see how social opinion changes over time.
My updates on bedtime poems have not been as frequent as I promised (I believe I said this would be a fortnightly post!) due to lack of internet. However, today I am in my local library, where the magical being that is the internet floats in the air and brings happiness to all. Hoping to get another few posts up today but please bear with me if I can’t update as regularly as I would like.
Way, way back at the start of the month I tweeted some lines from Seamus Heaney’s lovely poem ‘The Conway Stewart’:
The nib uncapped,
Treating it to its first deep snorkel
In a newly-opened ink bottle,
Letting it rest then at an angle
It comes from his collection Human Chain and I loved the image of the pen being used for the first time, ‘treated to its first deep snorkel’, that the poet’s pleasure at seeing the pen used for the first time could be shared by the pen itself. I know some people who are particular about the pens they use and hold on to them for years. I am not particularly fussy; pen, pencil, crayon…whatever comes to hand first really. There is something lovely about a new pen that flows well though, especially for those for whom writing is a passion. A lovely poem.