In the highlands of Malaya, a woman sets out to create a garden in memory of her sister who was killed during the Japanese occupation of her country during the war. She is introduced to a gardener, once in the employ of the Emperor of Japan and accepts his offer to become his apprentice. Together they create the memorial garden, leading Yun Ling to investigate her past and the recent history of her country.
Covering three distinct time periods. There is the the war era where there are harrowing descriptions of life in slave labour camps, kamikaze pilots, and the horror and brutality of the Japanese occupation of Malaysia. Then the creation of the garden alongside the gardener, Arimoto, and finally, the narrator looking back on her life as it nears its end. The narrative moves seamlessley between these three elements without being disjointed or confusing as is often the case when different time periods are intermingled.
This book was published in 2012 and was shortlisted for many prestigious prizes, including that year's Man Booker prize. It's beautifully written and rewards time spent appreciating the language and crafting of the text, rather than rushing through to discover the plot.
Published: January 2012