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Tan Twan Eng Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Gift of Rain (2007)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Garden of Evening Mists (2011)Description / Buy at Amazon
The House of Doors (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Tan Twang Eng has to be one of the most accomplished novelists from Malaysia whose works have garnered praise from the literati and been recognized across the globe.
He was the first non-British author to ever win the prestigious Walter Scott Prize with the publishing of “The Garden of Evening” his second novel in 2011.

This was the work that would make his name, as he won the Man Asian Literary Prize and made the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize.

Twang Eng has always been a voracious reader ever since he was a child but he would ultimately become an intellectual property lawyer.

But after practicing law for several years, the drive to once again become an author came back strongly and he took several years off and went to Cape Town for his master’s degree.
It was while he was working on his master’s that he began writing and by 2007, he published “The Gift of Rain” his debut novel which made the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize.

Both his novels have been translated into several languages including Russian, Italian, French, and Spanish.

He is now a respected literary figure and the people he once deemed his heroes are now his peers. He is regularly invited all over the globe, where he speaks at literary festivals.

Unlike most people, Tan Twang Eng’s love for history did not develop in high school. He attended a school in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Petaling Jaya where discipline was very strict.

He still remembers how his teacher used to hit them on the fingers with a wooden ruler because they did not do their homework or talk in class. The rigorous discipline made him very suspicious of any form of authority from when he was still very young.
He hated not having power and no voice as that made it impossible to influence things as one was under the mercy of the powerful. Still, he believes that the discipline had utility as otherwise they probably would have torn down the school.
Fortunately, Tan Twang Eng’s rebelliousness was channeled toward the reading of books, which he used to do under the table. As the teacher taught, he used to read underneath the table and while he was never caught, his grades suffered.
He must have been one of the very few students whose parents had many regrets about encouraging their kids to read more.

Eng used to take a book everywhere even when the family went out to get food at a restaurant. It was from this that he would become very interested in history.

Tan Twang Eng’s leap from being a reader and thinking of books as a form of escape to a writer came from reading all manner of badly written works.
It was from reading such books that his tastes began to shift and he started asking how such bad books could get published.

He also began thinking that he could do better, even though at that time he was afflicted with procrastination although he had dreams of one day becoming a published author.
While doing his master’s degree, he had a lot of time on his hands, and knowing he would never have so much time once he went back to his law practice, he decided to write.
He was also missing Malaysia at the time and this longing would become an integral part of his novel The Gift of Rain.

Tan Twang Eng’s novel “The Garden of Evening Mists” is a work set in 1980s Malaysia with flashbacks from the Second World War and 1949.

A well-regarded Supreme Court judge named Yun Ling Teoh has decided it is time to hang up her gave and retire to a Japanese house and garden in Yugiri in the beautiful Cameron Highlands.

Her return to the small community brings back many flashbacks from her earlier life, as she grew up in the highland plantations, as the daughter of one of the most influential Chinese-Malaysian families.
During the Second World War, she was imprisoned in a Japanese camp and went through some horrific things. She managed to survive and later on, became an attorney who specialized in tracking down Japanese War Criminals.
During the Civil War soon after the Second World War, Yun Ling temporarily moved in with a South African family friend who lived in a jungle where they have a tea plantation.

Near the plantation lived Aritomo a Japanese man who used to be the chief gardener of the emperor. Yun soon makes friends with the man who invites her to be his apprentice.

It is a slow beauty of a novel with several dramatic events that at its heart is all about gardening, redemption, love, and Japanese philosophy.

“The Gift of Rain” by Tan Twang Eng is the story of the tragic demise of a British family. This is a family that established itself in the Malay colony on Penang Island, where it had created a massive empire.
The lead character is Philip Hutton the youngest of four siblings who tells us the story of his family following the Japanese occupation and the events of the Second World War.

His mother was a Chinese woman and hence he is very conscious of his heritage being from two cultures. But as he becomes friends with a Japanese man who becomes his sensei or aikido, he becomes a product of three cultures.

He stands at the crux of Japanese invaders, British settlers, and Chinese settlers. The story unfolds as he moves from community to community and culture to culture, each time being both rejected and welcomed and is led or chosen to play different roles.
Through the deep musings, the plot, and the exotic setting, it is an impassionate work that shows the collision of various understandings of fate, the lineal understanding held by Western thought, and the Asian concept of circularity.

“The House of Doors” by Tan Twang Eng is a work set in 1921 that introduces Lesley Hamlyn. The lead lives with Robert her husband who is a war veteran and lawyer on the Straits Settlement of Penang at the Cassowary House.
When famed author Willie Somerset Maugham who is her husband’s old friend comes to their home with Gerald his secretary for an extended visit, what they do not know is that things may just change forever for everyone.

Maugham is one of the most notable authors of his day but he is living in an expensive and unhappy marriage as he has long hidden his homosexuality.

But he finds his marriage intolerable after losing his savings since he can no longer travel with Gerald his partner. With his health failing and his career on the downturn, he arrives at his old friends’ houses hoping to get some inspiration for his next work.
Lesley is also dealing with a duplicitous marriage and Maugham believes there could be an affair going on. When he discovers that Lesely has some connection to Dr. Sun Yat Sen the Chinese revolutionary, he decides to investigate.

But as he becomes better friends with Lesely, he confides in him and he comes to learn of a surprising story that could form the backbone of his next work.
It is a mesmerizing work that traces the fault lines of sexuality, gender, race, and power under empire.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Tan Twan Eng

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