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Heaven Tempers the Wind by Hazel Barker

Review by  Kathy Stewart

I knew very little about the conflict in Burma during the Second World War and read this book with great interest. It struck me as the story of many wars, both personal and on a larger scale, as mother and father come into conflict, as they battle to keep true to their values, and as the father’s growing alcoholism impacts on his nature and his relationship with his family. All this is played out against the backdrop of a vicious and confronting war that had consumed the whole world.

Hazel Barker was just a small child, unable to grasp the enormity of what was about to be thrust upon them when the bombs first fell on her home town, Rangoon. They had lived an idyllic lifestyle, wanting for nothing, but their magical world was soon shattered and they were forced to flee, before being propelled into a battle for their very existence. Facing many hardships, not least of which were famine and the death of a beloved family member, they struggled to keep their family intact while their war raged both internally and externally.

An interesting and honest account of the ravages of war and also of individuals’ struggles to maintain their strong sense of self and of their values.44

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Book Review: The Monsoon Bride by Michelle Aung Thin

Publisher: Text Publishing
Publisher’s Summary
Burma, 1930.
At their final marriage lesson, when the priest had talked on and on, Desmond bent his head to hers and whispered, ‘Our world is newer, faster and better—you will see.’ She took his hand in hers then and squeezed it. His skin had a peppery, meaty sweetness, a smell that seemed to stick to her dress, her hair and skin. She named it ‘the scent of men’. Beside her, he snored gently in his sleep, his face no more than an outline, rising and falling in the dim light. She decided that she liked the sound.

Winsome is just married and filled with anticipation. Her new husband is a stranger—one of the suitors chosen for her and the other mixed-race girls from the men who apply to the orphanage. But as the night train rattles towards her new home she sees possibility in this uncertain destiny. She knows she is headed for a new life in the metropolis.

She does not know about Rangoon, this city cradled in the arms of rivers. That it is about to be torn apart in the struggle between its ancient owners and new masters. That it will seduce her, possess her senses and change utterly her notion of what kind of woman she can be. When she meets Jonathan—when the monsoon comes—she begins to find out.

Review by Hazel Barker
I enjoyed reading The Monsoon Bride. The author has created vivid and strong settings and rightly depicts the mood and atmosphere current during that period of history. I particularly liked the way Michelle Aung Thin wove history into the narrative.

The opening chapter grabbed my attention. I found both male characters, Desmond and Jonathon, true to life, and as the story progressed, my sympathy went out to them. The story gripped me, making me eager to read on and discover whether Winsome could return to Desmond as the repentant sinner.

Winsome’s behaviour, however, is so unlike a girl who had been brought up in a convent. The distinction between social classes in Burma were too rigid at the time, and when she wandered alone in dangerous areas and showed sympathy for a coolie who had been wounded during the riots, I found her attitude more like that of a contemporary female than that of a girl in the 1930s.

I would also like to point out an error in the story. In 1930, an Indian bearer would never have addressed anyone as Thakin, but as Sahib; not even a Eurasian.

Despite these discrepancies, The Monsoon Bride held my attention to the end, and took me back to my childhood days as I read the familiar names of streets and places in Rangoon.

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