It’s funny when you reach the half way point in a book, film, album and you have a ’shrugged shoulders’ feeling about the whole thing, only for that to transform by the end into love. Such a thing happened to me reading Tan Twan Eng’s second novel. It’s the story of a retired Judge in Malaysia (Malaya) and her relationship with , the enigmatic former gardener to the Emperor of Japan. Of course, it is much more than that, it is a treatise on memory, with gardening, tattooing, war and several other things thrown in to help explore that theme. And explore it Tan does. It is a beautiful book. Beautifully crafted, thoughtful, moving, and with characters you care about. Having initially had my doubts about the book, I finished it with a desire to read it again.
‘Memory is like patches of sunlight in an overcast valley, shifting with the clouds. Now and then the light will fall on a particular point in time, illuminating it for a moment before the wind seals up the gap, and the world is in shadows again’