Sunday 29 September 2019

Indie Spotlight - Myanmar - A Daughter's Promise - Ann Bennett

In my first blog post as Indie Spotlight contributor, I wrote about The Foundling’s Daughter, set partly in India in the days of the British Raj. This was my first foray into self-publishing. Since publishing the book through my own Andaman Press in December 2018, I’ve learned marketing through trial and error and the book has been more successful than I could have hoped – staying in the top 10 of Historical Asian fiction category on, and the top 20 in the same chart on Sales have tailed off lately, but have led to a two-book publishing deal with mainstream digital publisher  Bookouture. The book will be published (freshly edited and under a new title – yet to be revealed) for pre-order in December 2019, publication date February 2020.

For my second self-published book, A Daughter’s Promise, I returned to South East Asia and the second world war, which was the focus of my Bamboo Trilogy, originally published by Monsoon Books. The trilogy tells the story of the conflict in the region from three different perspectives, and how the repercussions of those events echo down the generations to the present day; a British Soldier captured at the fall of Singapore, forced to work on the Thai-Burma railway, a plantation-owner’s wife, caught up in the conflict in Singapore, and a Thai woman who risks her life as part of the Thai resistance movement.

I was still inspired to write more, even though there are normally only three books in a trilogy! A Daughter’s Promise started out with the working title Burma Star. Set in the UK and Myanmar,it tells the stories of three generations of the same family and how the second world war in Burma touches all their lives. It is told from the perspectives of the wife, daughter and granddaughter of Jack Summers,  a working class Londoner, captured by the Japanese and forced to labour at Thanbyuzayat - the Burmese end of the Death Railway.

Jack is sent to work in the Romusha camp, occupied by forced Asian labourers and their families, whose conditions and treatment by the Japanese were truly shocking.  Jack becomes friends with a family of Tamil workers - brought from Malaya to work on the railway through promises of good pay and conditions. What happens to them has a devastating effect on Jack and those who love him for generations to come.

I realised when researching the Bamboo Trilogy that there was an untold story here. There has been a natural focus on the plight of Allied Prisoners of War because they were part of the official history of the conflict, and many came home and told their story. In fact around 90,000 Asian workers lost their lives during the building of the Thai-Burma railway and many more suffered hardship, starvation and disease. Their stories were largely forgotten, other than by the men who had worked alongside them and documented their experiences - for example, Weary Dunlop, the heroic Australian doctor, wrote of their appalling conditions and countless deaths in his famous diary. More recently, there has been more of a focus on the dreadful plight of the romusha – for example through the work at the Australian War Memorial at Hellfire Pass.

I felt that this was a story that needed to be told through the medium of fiction too.

A Daughter’s Promise also draws on my own experience of visiting Burma with my mother during the week of the 8th March 1988, seeing tanks and armed soldiers on the streets of Rangoon, experiencing nightly curfews and witnessing the fear of those around us. That was the start of the months that led to the pro-democracy demonstrations on 8th August 1988– (the 8888 uprising), which I’ve portrayed through Louise’s story in the book.

A Daughter’s Promise is available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and Paperback at this link

Here’s the blurb…

A daughter's promise to her dying father, uncovers wartime secrets that cast dark shadows over three generations of one family.
In 2015, 90-year old Grace Summers receives some old sketches – the work of her deceased husband, Jack. One sketch is of a beautiful Indian woman in a street in Kuala Lumpur. This brings back bitter-sweet memories of the 1940s, when Grace met and married Jack, whose world had been torn apart by his time as a prisoner of war in Burma.
In 1988, Grace’s daughter, Louise, embarks on a journey to Burma to fulfil a promise she made to Jack on his death-bed. She meets a young Burmese man, Zeya, an activist, and gets caught up in pro-democracy demonstrations, with tragic consequences.
In 2015, Louise and her daughter Eve, retrace Louise’s steps to Myanmar, to research Jack’s wartime experiences and to search for the girl in his sketch. But they are unprepared for the long-buried secrets their journey will unearth...