Review of Heaven Tempers the Wind

Hazel Barker was a four-year-old living in Rangoon when the Japanese invaded in 1941. Until that time her father worked for the British establishment and the family was relatively well-to-do, but t…

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Review of Heaven Tempers the Wind

Hazel Barker was a four-year-old living in Rangoon when the Japanese invaded in 1941. Until that time her father worked for the British establishment and the family was relatively well-to-do, but that all changed on Hazel’s birthday with the onset of bombing, causing the family to flee to Mandalay, then north again, until the invading Japanese army caught up with them. For the next four years the family’s fight for survival became ever-more desperate as the family savings dwindled to almost nothing and they were forced to live on the charity of relatives in the area of Mandalay.

The background of Hazel’s family is told incrementally; an Anglo-Indian mother, Burmese father, her two elder brothers, Rupert and Bertie, her elder sister, Jane, and the infants Rose and mentally-handicapped Herman. We are told of the tribulations suffered by her mother at the hands of her father who could be violent, and who, as the years progressed, became ever more isolated from his kin. This is doubly confronting when money is spent on liquor while the rest of the family are starving.

We learn of the bravery of Hazel’s brothers in the face of the enemy, of religious conflict between a Christian mother and her children pitted against a Muslim father and his relatives, of beriberi that afflicted all the children, of malaria that nearly claimed the life of her brother, Rupert, and of the death of her sister, Jane, following a vaccination given by the Japanese.

Adding to the story are insights gleaned from Hazel’s research into the war in Burma and from interviews with others who witnessed the invasion, or were involved in military action against the Japanese.

This is a compelling tale of courage, love and endurance, told largely from the perspective of a child. The book passes the critical test of compelling the reader to keep turning the page. After the Japanese were forced out of Burma Hazel’s father regains employment with the British and the family is required to return to Rangoon from the relative comfort of Mandalay. But at the close of the book the living conditions are desolate and only a sense of duty, or powerlessness, binds mother to father. What becomes of Hazel’s parents and siblings? How did she come to end up in Australia? This is all revealed in her next book, yet to be read by me. I look forward to it.

Review by Martin Line, retired academic and author of several publications in various disciplines.heaven tempers the wind cover

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Book launch of Heaven Tempers the Wind by Hazel Barker

A big thank you to the staff of Victoria Point Library for hosting my book launch of Heaven Tempers the Wind, to all my lovely friends – old and new – for attending this wonderful event…

Source: Book launch of Heaven Tempers the Wind by Hazel Barker

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Book launch of Heaven Tempers the Wind by Hazel Barker

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A big thank you to the staff of Victoria Point Library for hosting my book launch of Heaven Tempers the Wind, to all my lovely friends – old and new – for attending this wonderful event and to Sarah Davies for her photos of this memorable day. Last but not least a big hug to my publisher Anne Hamilton of Armour Books for introducing me and my dear husband Colin for all his support. Without his help this book wouldn’t have eventuated.

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Chocolate Soldier. The Story of a Conchie by Hazel Barker

Hazel’s debut novel Chocolate Soldier will be released by Rhiza Press in October, 2016. Book One of her memoirs Heaven Tempers the Wind was released by Armour Books this month. Both books are set d…

Source: Chocolate Soldier. The Story of a Conchie by Hazel Barker

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HEAVEN TEMPERS THE WIND by Hazel Barker (Armour Books, 2016)

When we see images of children refugees on our television news, it’s as if we see the true face of war exposed. And this is what the reader glimpses through a reading of Hazel Barker’s …

Source: HEAVEN TEMPERS THE WIND by Hazel Barker (Armour Books, 2016)

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HEAVEN TEMPERS THE WIND by Hazel Barker (Armour Books, 2016)

When we see images of children refugees on our television news, it’s as if we see the true face of war exposed. And this is what the reader glimpses through a reading of Hazel Barker’s memoir, “Heaven Tempers the Wind”, which tells of the effects on family and country during the Japanese occupation of Burma (1941-1946).

Barker writes with amazing recall for a child not yet eightheaven tempers the wind cover when the bombs begin falling on her hometown of Rangoon. At one moment she’s a privileged, youngest child looking forward to a visit from Santa, and the next she’s fleeing for her life with her family, with nothing other than bare essentials to sustain their survival.

Weaving her memoir between both her personal story and the history of a country at war, Barker doesn’t shy from the gruesome degradation war can effect on humankind. On this oft times frightening journey, the reader learns a number of lessons about deprivation and survival that we hope to never have the misfortune to apply in our own lifetimes.

And yet underpinning it all, as Barker grows from child to young adult, we sense that survival for her depends on a strong belief that life can, and will be, better than current circumstances might otherwise suggest.

I was given this book to review by the publishers Armour Books. I consider it a ‘must read’, even if only to understand the plight of so many displaced people currently seeking refuge from wars in Syria and other places.

 Beverley Asmus, winner of Redlitz Competition 2012

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