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October 20, 2023

Sisters Under the Rising Sun by Heather Morris ~ A Review

by Susan Roberts

I read a lot of WWII historical fiction but most of it involves the war in Europe.  Because of that, it's easy to forget that there was an equally horrific war going on in the Pacific with concentration camps, cruelty, and depravation and there were also strong women who helped other people survive their ordeal in captivity.
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book cover of historical fiction novel Sisters Under the Rising Sun by Heather Morris
October 2023; St. Martin's Press; 978-1250320551
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); historical fiction

As the Japanese army began a siege in Singapore, Norah Chambers and her husband make the decision to put their 8-year-old daughter on a ship with Norah's sister.  Norah wants her daughter to be safe but has to stay in Singapore to help take care of her sick husband and her parents.  She doesn't know if she'll ever see her daughter again but realizes how important it is to get her out of Singapore.  When things get worse, Norah, her husband, and sister board a ship to safety.  When the kamikaze pilots shoot at the ship, it sinks leaving many passengers dead and a number of others struggling to survive in the water.  

Some of the survivors of the ship were a team of Australian nurses who had enlisted to help the Allied troops but knew that they had to get out of Singapore before it was invaded.  

After surviving their time in the ocean, the passengers who survived were put into POW camps by the Japanese. The camps were places of starvation and brutality, where sickness of mind and body happened to the people who were trying to survive.  The men were sent to separate camps and the women had to band together to survive.  In total, this group of women was held captive for over three and a half years and were moved several times to even worse camps.   

There were many heroic women and nurses who worked tirelessly to make sure that people survived and that the children were taken care of.  Oftentimes, the adults would deny themselves food to try to keep the children alive.  Among the things that helped them survive was the gift of music.  Several of the women were very musical and formed a choir using their voices in place of instruments.  Their concerts gave the other women a renewed sense of camaraderie and helped them survive.

Be sure to read the author's notes at the end to read about the women that the book was based on.  Most of the main characters were real people and it amazes me that they've never been written about before.  The author did extensive research and it's apparent on every page.  The bravery of the women and their love for each other is something that I'll always remember.  Yes, there are some difficult parts in this book but the overwhelming feeling of the book is admiration for the bravery and resilience of these women as they survived a horrific experience.  If you enjoy World War II historical fiction, you don't want to miss this excellent book.  It's a book that I won't forget.

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.   

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