Book Review: Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

GardenFirst published on 28th Feb, 2012 in The Star


Author: Tan Twan Eng

Publisher: Myrmidon

Review by Daphne Lee

ON a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been a gardener of the Emperor of Japan.”

The first sentence of Tan Twan Eng’s second novel, The Garden Of Evening Mists, has a fairytale-like resonance, a magical quality that intrigues and beguiles. Who was this man and why did he journey so far from his home? Where was this mountain above the clouds and what did the Emperor’s gardener do there?

Almost immediately, this sense of picturesque tranquillity is disrupted by vague yet unmistakable references to violence, pain and sorrow in the subsequent sentences.

What was the exact nature of the relationship between the novel’s narrator and the Japanese gardener? From the book’s second paragraph, I found myself utterly absorbed by Tan’s characters, captivated by their histories and, especially by how the paths of their separate lives intersected and finally converged at Yugiri – the garden of evening mists.Read More »

Book Review: Matanya Teleskop, Hatinya Kapal Dalam Botol Kaca by Sufian Abas

matnya-teleskopFirst published on 23rd August, 2009 in The Star


Author: Sufian Abasa

Publisher: Sang Freud Press

ALTHOUGH HE doesn’t write specifically for adolescents, I think Sufian Abas has the sort of weird and wonderful imagination needed to create the sort of romantic fantasies teenagers would be only too eager to lose themselves in. They would most certainly identify with Sufian’s love-sick characters, his delusional young men and wide-eyed young women, all wandering through a world lit by fluorescent strips and filled with dusty roads, stuffy LRT coaches and gaudy fast food joints.Read More »

Interview: Shih-Li Kow, on ‘Ripples’

First published on 5th July, 2009 in The Star

shih-liIN 2007, Silverfish Books published News from Home, a collection of short stories by three Malaysians, Chua Kok Yee, Rumaizah Abu Bakar, and Shih-Li Kow.

The writers were participants of the Silverfish Writing Programme, and had been chosen to contribute to the anthology because they showed promise and commitment. Each had a different style of storytelling, but Kow’s stories stood out as the most original and interesting, and also because her voice was the most confident and natural of the three.

A year later, Kow published Ripples and Other Stories, a collection of her own, to critical acclaim locally. On Monday, that acclaim became international when Ripples was shortlisted for the world’s richest short story prize, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.

The winner of the £35,000 (RM175,000) prize will be announced on Sept 30, at the culmination of the annual Frank O’Connor International Short Story Festival in Cork, Ireland, which begins on Sept 16.

The other titles shortlisted are An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah; Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower; Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy;Singularity by Charlotte Grimshaw; and The Pleasant Light of Day by Philip Ó Ceallaigh.Read More »

Interview: Bernice Chauly, on ‘The Book of Sins’

An edited, shorter version of this interview was first published on 31 August, 2008 in The Star


bernice 2By DAPHNE LEE

SOME of her poems make me feel uncomfortable,’ said a friend of mine to whom I’d given Bernice Chauly’s poetry collection, Book of Sins.

She didn’t mean that the poems were bad, simply that she felt that they revealed things about her – secret, painful things that she never thought any one else would share let alone understand.

Chauly’s poems are deeply personal. They may or may not be autobiographical in detail, but the stories they tell feel like they were shaped by real, not simply imagined emotions, and of course memories. They are Chauly’s emotions, memories and stories, but they also speak to and for women the world over. They are familiar tales, but, filtered through the voice of an individual, they defy the cliches of everyday experience and become significant, compelling and unique.Read More »

Book Review: Sayang Pantun, compiled by Azah Aziz

Compiled by Azah Aziz
Illustrator: Dzulkafli Buyong
Publisher: MPH Publishing, 96 pages

A LARGE colourful book caught my eye in a local bookstore last week. Sayang: Pantun & Seloka Kanak-Kanak is a collection of old Malay nursery rhymes and songs, compiled by Azah Aziz and illustrated by Dzulkafli Buyong.

I recognised many of the rhymes in this book (for example Timang Tinggi-tinggi, Oh Bangau! andGendang Gendut) from my childhood, , but I also noticed the exclusion of some of my favourites, like Waktu Fajar Saya Bangun, Bangun Pagi and Tek-tek Bunyi Hujan.Read More »

Interview: Sufian Abas

sufian-abas1First published on 30th March, 2008 in The Star

SUFIAN Abas is a sulky young man who smells like freshly-pressed laundry. He takes stunning photographs … but (it is said) they are nothing compared to his beautiful, detailed work in cross-stitch.

He tap dances. He enjoys skinny-dipping. And climbing trees. He loves horses, especially unicorns. He dislikes children, but thinks they might be delicious curried, or roasted and served with carrots and potatoes.

Sufian claims that he was once nearly murdered by a witch.Read More »

Interview: Qiu Xiaolong

This interview was first published on 27th May 2007 in The Star

qiu-xialongBy DAPHNE LEE

LAST year, The Wall Street Journal published its list of five best political novels. In first place was Anthony Trollope’s The Prime Minister. At number three was Qiu Xiaolong’s Death of a Red Heroine.

The book, published in 2000, was the debut novel of Qiu, and the first in what was to become a detective series set in present-day Shanghai featuring Chief Inspector Chen, a police officer with a love for food and poetry.

“It was not my intention to write a political novel, or a series for that matter – that was my publisher’s idea,” says Qiu during a recent interview conducted while in transit in Kuala Lumpur, on his way to a book festival in Shanghai. Read More »

Book Review: Does My Head Look Big in This by Randa Abdel-Fattah

does my head look big.jpgFirst published on 4th February, 2007 in StarMag

Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books, 368 pages

Isn’t that title a gas? I love it! It’s witty and a little smart-alecky, like the heroine of the book, 16-year-old Amal Mohamed Nasrullah Abdel-Hakim, a Muslim Palestinian-Australian who decides that she’s ready to wear the hijab (veil) fulltime.

Read More »