My thanks to QWC and to the Createplace Team for making this possible.
My special thanks to Leanne Dodd for her help during the Life Writing Workshop.
INSIGHTFUL JOURNEY OF SELF DISCOVERY
Beautifully written in her trademark, intimate style, Hazel Barker takes the reader inside the cloistered world of those who have dedicated their lives to God. However, as interesting as this background may be for some readers, for me it was her personal struggles towards self-discovery that enthralled me the most.
The prequel to this part of Barker’s memoir, “Heaven Tempers the Wind”, shed light on what it was to be a child of war during the occupation of Burma. While everything familiar was breaking down around her once sheltered life, Barker drew strength on her unwavering faith in God for her survival, always believing in a better future to come.
Unfortunately, that better life did not arrive with the end of war. Family battles, specifically with a brutal father, had to be fought and more sibling lives lost. Although she is able to complete her education, finding friendship and possible romance, Barker feels called to offer her services to the Church. In many ways this is where her biggest life challenges begin, as important issues are raised about spirituality versus religiosity.
Barker’s honesty makes this compelling reading and leaves us wanting to read more about her incredible life journey
The Sides of Heaven is the sequel to Heaven Tempers the Wind: Story of a War Child, which was shortlisted in the Australia and New Zealand-wide CALEB Competition of 2017.
The sequel of Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child will be out shortly.
Set in a turbulent period of history, the story continues to unfold the struggles and sufferings of mother and children until death steals another three more of them.
Join the family in their journey to faith and freedom from the land of pagodas to the world of koalas and kangaroos.
To be released within the next few weeks by Armour Books.
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.
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.
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 during World War Two – the former in England and the Far East; the latter in Burma.
Hazel Barker lives in Brisbane with her husband Colin. She taught in Perth, Canberra and Brisbane for over a quarter of a century and now devotes her time to reading, writing and bushwalking. From her early years in Burma, her passion for books drew her to authors like Walter Scott and Charles Dickens. Her love for historical novels sprang from Scott, and the love of literary novels, from Dickens. Many of her short stories and book reviews have been published in magazines and anthologies.
Adults, especially those interested in history of World War Two, those with a strong stance on involvement in war versus conscientious objections, would be inspired by this book. There is a faith/beliefs struggle which some may identify with or be inspired.
‘Historical facts taken from diaries of a real person going through the trauma of war make this compelling and very impactful. Interesting historical and cultural information about Britain in war as well as aspects of war from Egypt, India and China. Captures the internal battle of a conscientious objector in war: the prejudice he faced as well as the questioning of his beliefs.’ CALEB unpublished Fiction Manuscript Report 12/4/2012
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