A slow start (with LRB back issues providing stiff competition for my short attention span), but totally absorbing once I gave it my time and attention. And by the end, a few tears.
The Garden of Evening Mists is set in the Cameron Highlands, in Malaya / Malaysia across three time periods in the narrator’s life: the Japanese occupation, The Emergency, and the present day (actually early 1980s when I read the Wikipedia synopsis). We learn about the peninsula’s history and Japanese zen arts from gardening to wood block prints and tattooing.
And what a wonderfully alluring opening sentence:
On a mountain above the clouds, in the central highlands of Malaya lived the man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan.
Publisher page: The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng