Yun Ling Teoh, is a retired judge. In the 1980’s she leaves the business of the Supreme Court of Kuala Lumpur to take up residence in the Majuba Tea Estate in the Cameron Highlands. Here, in independent Malaysia she recalls and writes down her story. Her memory takes the reader back to Malaya in the 1950’s Yun Ling sought out, Aritomo, who was the gardener of the Emperor of Japan and lives in the Highlands. The background on Yun Ling is that her family suffered greatly under the Japanese occupation of Malaya during World War II. Her sister was killed by the Japanese. Yun Ling seeks to create a memorial garden for her sister with the exiled Japanese gardener. Aritomo eventually agrees but only to the monsoon returns and only if Yun Ling will be his apprentice.
The grander issues of the novel are finding peace and solace from traumas of the past. The mists in the tile of the novel clear to reveal mysteries and darker secrets. As Aritomo and Yun Ling work on the Japanese garden their relationship develops – anger and peace are realised in Yugiri the Japanese name of the garden. The characters forget and remember but the novel does not offer resolutions, or neat endings.
This title is a lovely summer read (more veranda than beach) and each reader will decide if the author has completed his mission, ‘to capture stillness on paper.’