This was an amazing story, drenched in beauty, but an incomplete beauty, full of sorrow, but a sorrow with many questions, with unresolved anger. It tells the story a history of the main character, as she looks back to WWII and the ensuing fight for Malaysia, between the British and communists, and then the movement toward independence. As others have said, it is an end-of-empire story. But it is also a very personal story, a love story. A woman who has learned to hate the Japanese falls in love with a Japanese man, a demanding gardener with a past that isn't clear. Yes, it's an end-of-empire story. But it derives its power from this love story, from the mystery surrounding the individual pasts, the secrets of the time.