A Man Booker finalist and a winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize must be pretty good, right? Wrong. This torturous, unbelievably slow book presumably about a lone survivor of a Japanese war camp who finds peace in an isolated Japanese garden (the only one in Malaya). The survivor, Yun Ling, seeks out the gardener who created it in order to build a garden as a memorial for her deceased sister.
The book then takes a really long time to get anywhere or say anything. Yun Ling negotiates her relationship with the gardener (Aritomo), we learn about his background, what happened to Yun Ling at the camp, why she's building this garden for her sister, etc. It crawls, it hides behind the "beautiful" language (WHY do so many reviews describe this book so???), it just doesn't do anything.
As far as I can tell it wasn't translated into English which I initially thought might have been part of the problem. This just isn't a good book and I'm baffled as the high ratings. None of the characters are all that interesting or necessarily even likeable. In itself likeability certainly isn't something I need but it's puzzled me as to what exactly appeals to people about this book.
As you can see this really wasn't for me and I'd recommend skipping it. It's been a book I've had for years but finally decided to read it since I guess I was in a historical fiction mood. Definitely wasn't worth buying and this is not an author I'd try again (apparently this is his second book and I even looked into his first book for reading). Tells me that sometimes awards committees have no idea what they're doing.