May 2016 Club

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Yuguri, or the Garden of Evening Mists, is a serenely beautiful Japanese garden nestled in the Cameron Highlands in Malaya. Yun Ling is a retiring prosecutor of war criminals in Kuala Lumpur and finds herself drawn to the garden, which was created by Aritomo, the exiled gardener of the Emperor of Japan.

The first half of the book meanders through ex-pat life in the jungle, lengthy descriptions of the garden and details of the Japanese arts of gardening, archery, tattooing and wood-block printing. Despite the tranquility of Yuguri, there’s always the underlying threat of guerrilla attacks as violent CTs lurk in the jungle and Yun Ling comes home one evening to find a band of them in her house, with terrifying consequences.

Yun Ling persuades Aritomo to teach her the art of Japanese gardening in memory of her sister -  the thought of the gardens they’d seen together in Kyoto kept them going during their internment in a prisoner of war camp. Yun Ling was the sole survivor of the camp and lives with that intense guilt. Brutal camp captain, Fumio, hacked off two of her fingers and she feels she now has to wear gloves constantly.

Perhaps part of her reason to undertake the task of creating a Japanese garden is an attempt to control nature, where she has had control taken away from her in the past, and because she is suffering from aphasia, knows she will lose control of her memories in the future.

Colourway inspiration

The writing did transport me deep into the rainforests of the Malayan highlands.

When Yun Ling and Aritomo head out to look for birds’ nests, there’s a wonderful description of the lush greenness of the jungle: “The world appears uniform in colour, almost monochromatic. Then, gradually, one begins to take in the gradations of green: emerald, khaki, celadon, lime, chartreuse, avocado, olive.”

I couldn’t work so many greens into a semi-solid, so I chose emerald – double dyed it – then dyed it a third time with a slightly darker tone to create Lush Jungle creating quite a summery, shimmery jungle green.

On another excursion, Yun Ling and Aritomo venture up to the Temple of Clouds. “The sun hatched out from behind the clouds, transforming the surface of the rocks into a shimmer of turquoise and yellow and red and purple and green… a handful of butterflies flew through the rainbow above the gorge, and it seemed to me that they came out looking more vibrant, their wings revived by the colours in that arc formed by light and water.”

For the variegated colourway, I edited out the red as I wanted to ensure the resultant colours remained in the green spectrum and added emerald, dark olive, turquoise, yellow and purple. Where the colours have mixed, I think it conveys the different tones of the rainforest including chartreuse and avocado from the description above. I called it Waterfall Butterflies.

The yarn base is Lustrous BFL which offers just the right amount of silky sheen.