Tag Archives: Memoirs

Interview by Nene Davies, author

heaven tempers the wind coverInterview by Nene Davies on 5th August 2016. Reproduced by kind permission of the author.

See http://www.nenedavies.com – NeneDaviesBlogs

Published

Congratulations Hazel, on the recent publication of your memoir. Tell us a little about it!

My idyllic childhood is torn apart by the bombing of Rangoon, just prior to Christmas 1941. Mum convinces me I’m off on a marvellous holiday as we flee the city – leaving my precious dolls behind.

The Japanese armies overrun Burma, forcing us to flee from one refuge to another. My father has worked for the British government and initially relies on the official refugee policy. My mother fears for us – especially my older brothers who take daring opportunities to harass the Japanese.

The story tells of our travails during the darkest days of enemy occupation. Threaded with light, shot through with hope, it recounts my hard-won passage from innocence to maturity.

Past

I know you to be a lover of history. What is it about stories from the past that fascinates you?

My love of stories from the past originated from an early age. My mother often spoke to us of her life as a child. She was a great story teller and it all seemed a very long time ago to me. At school, English and History were my two favourite subjects. I loved studying about kings and battles fought and won. Later on, at the university, I majored in history.

I think the old adage that history repeats itself is quite true. We should learn from past mistakes. When we know a person’s or a country’s past, we begin to understand them better. To understand is to forgive. Then perhaps we can forgive others, learn to tolerate differences in others and live in peace with them.

Personal

What would be your advice for new authors who want to write a memoir?

My advice to new writers who want to write a memoir is: ask questions about your past. Question your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters. Write notes on all they say – their happiest days and their saddest ones. Gather as much information as you can from them before they pass away. Look at old family photos to trigger your memory. Finally, read books on memoir writing before your start.

I regret not having read ‘how to write’ books before I commenced. One of the most useful books to read is Kathy Stewart’s Writing Memoir. Tips from an Editor on writing life stories. Had I read this book previous to writing my memoir, it would have saved me hours of hard work.

Preference

What are you favourite types of books to read?

My favourite genres are memoirs and historical novels, especially books set in World War Two. Perhaps because I was a little child during the war and like to compare my life to others. Some fared even worse than I did, while others didn’t even realise that a war was on. To most children who grew up during the war, it proved an unforgettable time and left its mark on them.

Preparation

Do you enjoy the research aspect of writing about people and events from the past?

I find research an enjoyable and exciting part of writing. It is thrilling to discover something new on the subject of my research. Some authors delegate the researching to others, but I neither have the money nor the inclination to do so.

Plans

What’s next?

My next move is to polish Book Two of my memoirs and my historical novel The Soprano. Meanwhile, I’m awaiting publication of my historical novel. Chocolate Soldier. The Story of a Conchie, which is due to be published in September.

My book, Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child may be bought on line or better still, signed copies may be obtained at my book launch on the 9th of September.

 

For more information, please visit my blog on: https://hazelmbarker.wordpress.com/

www.armourbooks.com.au

www.wombatbooks.com.au

www.rhizapress.com.au

www.novelladistribution.com.au

http://hazelmbarker.wixsite.com/author

 

 

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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

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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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The Power of Books by Hazel Barker

heaven tempers the wind coverBooks are a powerful weapon. There have been many instances of book-burnings throughout history. Some of the better known conflagrations are the burning of Catholic theological works by Martin Luther in 1520, and the incinerating of English Monastic Libraries during the Dissolution of Monasteries from 1536-1541. Thousands of books were burned by the Communists in Russia. Books by Jewish authors and anti-Nazi books were burned by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. The latest burnings to date have been those by ISIS in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Fear of their influence on people led to such destruction.

Books open our minds to knowledge, to understanding and to joy. There are millions to choose from, and were we to spend our whole lives consuming book after book, we could only read a fraction of them. For this reason, we need to be selective in what we read.

I strongly recommend Writing Memoirs. Tips from an editor on writing life stories by Kathy Steward to all those who contemplate writing a memoir. Had I read Writing Memoirs before embarking on my memoirs, it would have saved me endless time and worry.

I enjoy reading memoirs and historical fiction. From memoirs I may learn how to avoid the mistakes others have made, or be encouraged to follow their examples.  Reading historical fiction teaches me about the past, and I read them, bearing in mind the adage ‘History repeats itself.’

Books give me pleasure. Few joys give greater joy than relaxing with a good book. Ever since I learned to read from the age of four, I loved books. Later, even before I reached my teens, I longed to write – to be an author someday.

Now that dream has been fulfilled. Book One of my memoirs Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child  is just hot off the press. Published by Armour Books it will be available in all good bookstores. I assure you that men and women of all ages will enjoy reading it and will look forward to the sequel. Happy reading!

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, 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.

Hazel’s debut novel Chocolate Soldier, will be released by Rhizza Press in 2016. Book One of her memoirs Heaven Tempers the Wind was released by Armour Books this year. Both books are set during World War Two – the former in England and the Far East; the latter in Burma.

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Heaven Tempers the Wind (Dedication)

This book is dedicated

 

In loving memory

 

Of my mother,

 

May Josephine White,

 

Who peacefully passed away in Perth

 

On the eighteenth October, nineteen hundred and seventy six     

 

 

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BOOK ONE OF MY MEMOIRS

Book One of my memoirs Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child will be in print by September. The title is taken from Psalm 6: 2.

In Charles Kingsley’s book Hereward the Wake, the protagonist Hereward says, “They say heaven tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, but it tempers it too, sometimes, to the hobbled ass.”

heaven tempers the wind cover

 

Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child tells the story of a Eurasian family caught up in the Japanese occupation of Burma during World War Two. Much of the family story is told from the point of view of the fourth child. It depicts their flight from invading forces, and gives vivid accounts of the war.

The narrative follows the family from a comfortable life under British colonial rule, to the invasion of a foreign power which renders them homeless, sick and starving. The story concludes with the end of war.

Heaven Tempers the Wind is a story of suffering which never fails in its universal appeal. The resonances then, are twofold: firstly, the conflict is one that is familiar in the Australian collective memory; secondly, another less obvious appeal lies in the retelling of some of the history of contemporary Burma, in particular the part played by Aung San (father of Aung San Suu Kyi). Readers familiar with contemporary politics would be interested in the history preceding it.

The popularity of personal war stories is widespread. Within the context of a familiar war, Heaven Tempers the Wind tells an unfamiliar story that will also be of interest to readers who still live with memories of the war in Asia. Part of Australia’s national mythology is defined by war, and particularly potent are those stories of war that involve suffering. Gallipoli is evocative, not because it is a place of victory, but for the opposite reason.

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Heaven Tempers the Wind. A Memoir by Hazel Barker

HAZEL lives in Rangoon with her family in the wonder and bliss of childhood until the bombing of Burma in Christmas 1941 wrenches them from their home.

Sickness and starvation take their toll. The youngest sister gets smallpox and the older one dies of plague. A brother takes part in sabotage against the invaders. Another feeds his younger siblings with bones brought home by their dog.

Caught up in the traumas of war, Hazel thinks she’s on a holiday at first. Later on, she pines for her comfortable home, her dolls, and above all, her beloved sister.

Will the family survive the war, and will Hazel ever overcome her long-lingering emotional aftermath?

 

heaven tempers the wind cover

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