June 29, 2013

Spotlight on Tan

Mists of Memory 

The Garden of Evening Mists is set against the backdrop of The Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. A place where the main character's hidden memories circle and swirl, revealing as they lift the clarity and depth of what makes us human and inhuman as memory is plumbed against a fault line of occupation and rebellion.
From the beginning, this book draws the reader into a world rich in culture and beauty. History glues the work together and is the engine that drives the characters who are, because of their experiences remote--yet characters that we are drawn to, that we want to know and understand, that are pushed into revelation by the seamless hand of the writer as the reader turns each page, extracting from the characters' memories shocking revelations as well as many unforgettable gems.

Further, it is a love story that steps over wide fissures of hate and animosity--over boundaries that, for many characters, should not be crossed. It's a story of memory, of what, even if we wish to hide it, is important to remember and record because, like the garden in the novel, it serves as a memorial--to the bit that can be made right.

The garden reminds the reader of the first garden where, for a time, all was good, until, that is, the apple was eaten and the knowledge of good and evil was revealed. In the novel, memory is the bitten apple. It reveals even when it is pruned; it forces itself up, speaks the unspeakable and can wither and vacate leaving one, before that happens, quietly keening and carrying on and, later, hopelessly shipwrecked.

While I haven't read Tan Twan Eng's The Gift of Rain, it is definitely, although I am reading other books, on my list. Tan is an exceptional writer; a writer a reader hopes to find. His timing, lyrical prose and vivid images are beautifully rendered and are as loaded as the mist.

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