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Wednesday 11 October 2023

Sisters Under the Rising Sun by Heather Morris

 Cover of the book Sisters Under the Rising Sun by Heather Morris

Dear friends. I'm thrilled to bring you a real block buster today. It's my date on the blog tour for New Zealand writer Heather Morris and her latest best seller, Sisters Under the Rising Sun.

Currently being filmed by Sky for a six part series, the book tells the story of a group of women from Australia, England, the Netherlands and beyond, who were captured by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1942 and held in brutal conditions in a camp in the Indonesian jungle. 

Heather Morris is the multi-million bestselling author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz. She has gone from 'regular granny' to 16m copy internationally bestselling author in the space of 5 years. 


Sisters under the Rising Sun is mainly based upon the real-life experiences of Australian nurse Sister Nesta James and English musician Norah Chambers. After their ship was bombed they survived a brutal 24 hours in the sea to reach the beaches of a remote island. They were then captured by the Japanese and held in one of their notorious POW camps. These were places of starvation and brutality, where disease was rampant.

Sisters in arms, Norah and Nesta fight side by side every day, discovering in themselves and each other extraordinary reserves of courage, resourcefulness and determination.

My Thoughts

A remarkable and powerful book which had me in tears on public transport and hastily switching to a less emotional read. 

Writer Heather Morris says she wanted to rectify a wrong by attaching names to the Australian nurses who volunteered to care for Allied forces. Some were killed in cold blood by their Japanese captors. Others survived three years and seven months of near starvation and brutality in Japanese POW camps. 

It's a story that shows just how resourceful, determined and indefatigable women can be at times of crisis. 

In addition to the Australian nurses, Morris's research led her to find some remarkable British women in the same camps, whose lives were intertwined with the nurses. 

Diminutive Nurse Nesta James is a force of nature, providing inspirational leadership to her team of nurses, putting herself between them and the brutal soldiers on occasion. 

Brit Norah Chambers, a talented musician, and Margaret Dryburgh kept morale high by getting the captives singing. Their concerts were so popular they were attended by Japanese senior officers. She also developed a system of training voices to sound like instruments. 

The last few months of captivity took a heavy toll. The women were often moved to different camps in awful conditions on ships. Many died of starvation and fever: 76 in all. During their captivity the women had to deal with flooding latrines, torrential rain and burning hot sun. When food was being severely rationed, they were given seeds to grow vegetables but once they had grown, weren't allowed to eat them. 

They had to bury their friends and put makeshift wooden crosses and mounds of flowers on the graves, equipped with just two machetes to dig the rock hard ground. 

When liberation finally arrived, the nurses received a heroes' welcome when they arrived in Australia.
By contrast there was no acknowledgement or welcome for the British women, who returned home on the same troopship as servicemen. Relatives were told not to meet the ship when it docked. 

This sisterhood will live on in my memory.

Meet the Author: Heather Morris 

Born in New Zealand, Heather Morris is an international number one bestselling author, who is passionate about stories of survival, resilience and hope. 

In 2003, while working in a large public hospital in Melbourne, Heather was introduced to an elderly gentleman who 'might just have a story worth telling'. The day she met Lale Sokolov changed both their lives. Lale's story formed the basis for The Tattooist of Auschwitz and the follow-up novel, Cilka's Journey. 

In 2021 she published the phenomenal conclusion to the Tattooist trilogy, Three Sisters, after being asked to tell the story of three Holocaust survivors who knew Lale from their time in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Together, her novels have sold more than 16 million copies worldwide. In 2020 she published Stories of Hope, her account of her journey to writing the story of Lale Sokolov's life.

Thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours, the author and Bonnier Books for the advance copy of Sisters Under the Rising Sun in return for an honest review. 

Sharing this post with  #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings, Hello Monday at Sunshine and BooksRena at Fine Whatever#Neverendingstyle at The Grey Brunette, Final Friday/Traffic Jam Weekend at Marsha in the Middle Senior Salon Pitstop at Esme Salon #FridayCoffeeShare at Natalie the Explorer


There's a round-up of book reviews on the third Friday of every month at Is This Mutton, plus the occasional author and book spotlight. Follow me on Good Reads or Twitter to see what I'm reading.


September Books

Book Spotlight: Lessons by Ian McEwan

Book Spotlight: The Raging Storm by Ann Cleeves 

Book Spotlight: Salt and Skin by Eliza Henry


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