The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng. Penguin. May 2012 (UK).
Quick rundown: Beautiful title, gorgeous cover, dull book alleviated by only a very few interesting elements.
The theme of man's inhumanity to man, specifically during the Boer War and Japanese/Chinese conflict, gave a new perspective to what horrible things people can - and have - always done to one another. Main character Yun Ling Teoh's suffering and torture at the hands of the Japanese, as well as the early-onset dementia she battled, should have been a true, from the gut hook but wasn't. I was too busy flipping back and forth to keep up with what was past and what present, not beguiled enough to always figure things out until they unfolded on their own.
The education and perspective on the sacredness of the Japanese garden, likewise, was a good - if somewhat vague - strength, as was the difficulty Yun Teoh had taking instruction from a "Jap," considering what they'd put her through.
Unfortunately, these bits couldn't hold the novel together. It was too wordy, too watered-down, lacking the punch it could and should have had. Not even one quote I'm moved to share because it was too cliched, too could have come from a Hallmark card.
No justification for a Booker win here. Barely enough for a nomination and that only because it berates the Brits (very PC to include a book which does that) and Japanese for their abhorrent behavior toward weaker cultures. Totally politicial - as in Politically Correct - selection on the judge's part. Instead of "Let's crucify the Americans!" it was "Let's villify the Brits!" Very disappointed by the panel. A bit too much listening to the critics of the lack of variety in the nominees and not enough attention paid to deserving writing.
I'm removing it from my Shortlist prediction, as it should be removed by the judges themselves. I'm sure there must have been something better they could have chosen but it probably didn't insult the Brits enough to salve their consciences they'd mea culpa-ed enough.
Please, lads and ladies... Quit sacrificing quality for "variety."
Hint: I didn't enjoy it and want my reading time back.