Gideon Lewis-Kraus, needs to escape. Determined to avoid the kind of constraint that kept his father, a gay rabbi, closeted until midlife, he moves to Berlin. But the surfeit of freedom there has begun to paralyze him, and so he then decides to go on an ancient pilgrimage route across Spain with a friend
A Sense of Direction is an interesting take on a perpetual war between discipline and desire. It is published on February 13th 2014
Camino de Santiago,
The Japanese island of Shikoku
The tomb of a famous Hasidic mystic in the Ukraine
I was lucky enough to attend an event with the amazing writer of The Garden of Evening Mists recently at a Waterstones bookstore. This book was shortlisted for the Man Book Prize 2012 and won the Man Asian Literary Prize 2012.
And it was given to the literary world by a publisher right here in the North East! – Myrmidon – Twice as fantastic.
The Garden of Evening Mists is a rare book – that which is so different to anything else I’ve ever read but one which touches so many different emotions that you never forget it. And now here I was about to meet the man who had written such beautiful and yet heart wrenching prose.
The story is narrated by Supreme Court Judge Teoh Yun Ling, who is the sole survivor of a brutal wartime camp during the Japanese occupation ofMalaysia
She suffers from an illness that will soon affect her ability to communicate.
My memories will be like a sandbar, cut off from the shore by the incoming tide. For what is a person without memories?
And so we go with her as she attempts to reclaim those memories and to see what she has gone through in her past.
It was thanks to an exquisite Japanese garden in Kyoto that she managed, in some way to numb the horrors of the war. After wards, Yun Ling seeks out Yugiri (the Garden of Forgetfulness or Evening Mists?), created by the exiled gardener of the Emperor of Japan. She becomes his apprentice and the develop a tight kinship.
Tan Twan Eng plants and nurtures his garden with beautiful, delicate prose and tends to it gently throughout the book, nurturing the images it represents. In this sense it is certainly representative of life itself and indeed as Tan Twan Eng describes the garden:
It has to make you appreciate the impermanence of everything in life.
A beautifully written book with a enchanting story in the form of a garden of evening mists.
Tan Twan Eng was a pleasure to meet. He was warm and friendly and sat and chatted with me for a little while. He signed both books and I asked him about them and about his current book tour. I told him I had always wanted to travel to Malaysia and to the Far East in general and that he had certainly inspired me to do so. I got an insight into what made him write this book, what he believed in and the kind of person he was and I cam away feeling I had really met someone special with an extra special story to tell.
I am saving the second book The Gift of Rain for a later read since I want the mist from the garden to last just a little while longer.
This book was brilliant on so many levels. I read it purely as it was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and had not read Tan Twan Eng’s first novel. More so as it was published ‘up North’ and if it gets the North East seal of approval then I just had to read it. That’s enough of a recommendation for me.
And now, I will definitely read the first book, since if this one is anything to go by, I’m in for another treat.
I have never been to Japan but this story transported me, far away to foreign world in turmoil, with characters who I genuinely cared about. It is a story of the history of Malaysia especially around the 2nd World War and the Japanese take over and the subsequent struggle of those living though it. There were times when the tension was unbearable, it is so hard to even begin to understand what these people went through.
This wonderful story weaves its way into your heart and doesn’t let you go. It is an exceptional journey through a particularly tough period of history. What I found very well done was the interweaving story of the war time savagery. This is a tale of love and forgiveness that grows and blossoms like the garden at the centre of the book. The two main characters – a former gardener to the Emperor of Japan and the Malayan Chinese prosecutor of Japanese war criminals, who subsequently becomes a judge – hold the various threads of this interweaving and beautiful story together.
This book made me want to continue my travels – this time to Japan and to truly see the beauty in both the Japanese landscape and its people.