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 eight 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