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"Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the emperor of Japan. Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in memory of her sister, who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice "until the monsoon comes." Then she can design a garden for herself. As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to the gardener and his art, while all around them a communist guerilla war rages. But the Garden of Evening Mists remains a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?"--P.  of cover.
How often do we focus our attention on the events of World War II in Malaysia? This is a worthy introduction to the subject. The use of fiction allows the bringing together of persons from all aspects of life in that area at the time and after. Malaysia as the war began was a set of mostly British colonial sectors. Amid the Japanese invasion, there were also political movements and rumblings of an independence movement. The Afrikaaner tea planter is a veteran of the Boer War with no reason to approve of British rule except for business reasons. The Japanese gardener appears to have dissociated himself from Japanese imperial aspirations. Yun Ling, the Straits Chinese, who cannot speak Chinese, was educated in British mission schools, and is described satirically by a Malaysian as looking to England as her homeland. These people, living in proximity, furnish important elements in one another's lives over several generations. This is a rich tapestry of all the people and events and ambitions of a particular time and place. In the end, the reader is left with a set of acquaintances worth caring about, and some questions about the world we live in to ponder for a considerable time.