Sisters Under the Rising Sun

A Novel

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Pub Date 24 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 07 Nov 2023


From the New York Times bestselling author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz comes a story of sisterhood and survival, inspired by a true story.

A phenomenal novel of resilience and survival from bestselling author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris.

In the midst of World War II, an English musician, Norah Chambers, places her eight-year-old daughter Sally on a ship leaving Singapore, desperate to keep her safe from the Japanese army as they move down through the Pacific. Norah remains to care for her husband and elderly parents, knowing she may never see her child again.

Sister Nesta James, a Welsh Australian nurse, has enlisted to tend to Allied troops. But as Singapore falls to the Japanese she joins the terrified cargo of people, including the heartbroken Norah, crammed aboard the Vyner Brooke merchant ship. Only two days later, they are bombarded from the air off the coast of Indonesia, and in a matter of hours, the Vyner Brooke lies broken on the seabed.

After surviving a brutal 24 hours in the sea, Nesta and Norah reach the beaches of a remote island, only to be captured by the Japanese and held in one of their notorious POW camps. The camps are places of starvation and brutality, where disease runs rampant. Sisters in arms, Norah and Nesta fight side by side every day, helping whoever they can, and discovering in themselves and each other extraordinary reserves of courage, resourcefulness and determination.

Sisters under the Rising Sun is a story of women in war: a novel of sisterhood, bravery and friendship in the darkest of circumstances, from the multimillion-copy bestselling author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Cilka's Journey and Three Sisters.

From the New York Times bestselling author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz comes a story of sisterhood and survival, inspired by a true story.

A phenomenal novel of...

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Featured Reviews

Heather Morris is the master of weaving facts and history into an unforgettable historical fiction masterpiece. Sisters Under the Rising Sun tells the story of shipwrecked nurses who become POW's in a Japanese camp. In deplorable conditions, they form a bond so strong, they would die for each other. Survival and being reunited with their family and loved ones seem impossible as they struggle each day to endure.

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"I have told this story so they will be known. How can you be remembered if you've never been heard of?" I absolutely love this quote from the Author's Notes. It so beautifully states why I deeply appreciate what authors like Heather Morris do with stories like this.

I have stumbled upon very few stories focused on the atrocities women faced in the POW camps during WWII. It is so incredible that Ms. Morris brought these women's stories to light. These were real people who lived through this. The more I read about WWII and the aftermath, the more mind boggling it is to me how far reaching that war was.

It seems there have been more stories recently published about WWII from the Japan side vs. Germany side. It's been interesting to learn more about that part of war and its implications.

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Although Heather Morris takes her readers off the European mainland and transports them to Asia, she still draws upon her stellar ability to write about suffering and hope in the midst of it. Her focus this time is on sisters - nursing sisters - and she examines the belief that struggles expand our compassion for others.

Inspired by the Vyner Brook Tragedy, Morris’s latest book reminds us that even when it feels like the suffering is too much for us to handle, it’s possible for us to keep feeling compassion. Furthermore, it’s possible to help generously. Armed with resilience developed through their career, the ‘sisters’ effectively elevated their own ability to care about and effectively help others who were …. Ugh, I”m going to say it … in the same boat. Don’t throw anything at me!

The Vyner Brook was a merchant ship carrying desperate evacuees from Singapore when it was hit by the Japanese Air Force and sunk. You’ll read about a group of courageous survivors who made it to a remote island … then realize that the sinking was only the beginning of their horrific journey to escape the Japanese invasion of Singapore.

You’ll appreciate a fresh setting and perspective for WW2 history, and your emotions will be high when you are reminded that these are real people and real events. Their resilience and bravery will astound you. I won’t forget Nesta James, Betty Jeffrey and Vivian Bullwinkel any time soon. Thank you for bringing this important piece of history to light so that we can continue to learn from their courage and care.

If you loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Cilka’s Journey and/or Three Sisters, you’ll want to source a copy of this book immediately.

The significance of the title was not lost on me, Heather Morris!

I was gifted this copy by St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.

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First off let me thank St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a preview read of Heather Morris’ new book SISTERS UNDER THE RISING SUN. This book will be released OCTOBER 24, 2023….Heather is the author of the Tattooist of Auschwitz, Cilka’s Journey and Three Sisters and I loved those books!

This book is about another devastating time in which women are held in a POW camp during WWII. While leaving Singapore in fear of the Japanese, a group of civilians and Welsh Australian nurses board the SS Vyner Brook. They are bombarded from the air off the coast of Indonesia. They survive in the water for 24 hours, but are captured and sent to a POW camp for three and a half years! These camps are brutal…with starvation, disease and cruelty.

Sisters Under the Rising Sun is about two blood sisters who were captured…as well as “sister” nurses who were enlisted to tend Allied troops. These women stand side by side bonding, helping and courageously trying to live during this deplorable and helpless time. I was shocked to read about this horrific incident, as I had never heard of about this…I love learning about history I haven’t previously known about through fiction. It just brings the story to life.

I did have one down turn about this book, which I think that I understand Heather Morris’ reasoning ... in no way does that alter my rating.
~All the women in the POW camp (who were separated early on from the men) got along famously. No infighting, bullying, or even hostile quarreling. This had me shaking my head a bit, because I know women in the best of conditions. We often tend to be cranky and petty during certain situations that arise. These women didn’t get upset, weren't contentious or even jealous when others had more to eat and better conditions. They volunteered for difficult work and some did more than their fair share. With that said, while I did have difficulty believing that there was no animosity...I also think that the author was trying to put a “positive” outlook on this extremely difficult situation. I believe she just wanted to get the story out there so that we will know about this time in history. Many died there and I feel the author wanted to respect their memory.

I also felt it started to drag a bit toward the end. However, can you imagine how their lives “dragged a bit” being in a prison camp for 3.5 years?!?!

READ THIS BOOK! It is so important that these moments in history (horrific moments) NOT BE REPEATED!!!!

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World War II was definitely a war that encompassed most of our world. Acclaimed Author Heather Morris has written several remarkable books dealing with the horrors of Jewish prisoners in Germany during the war. “Sisters Under the Rising Sun” reveals the cruelty of the Japanese internment camps. Author Morris is to be commended for creating another heartfelt and inspiring historical fiction book.

The story begins in February, 1942 in British Malaysia, just prior to its fall to the Japanese. Residents of Singapore are desperately trying to evacuate. Norah and her husband, and her sister are on one of the last boats to leave the endangered city. The boat is crammed with other citizens, including a group of Australian Army nurses, who vow to stay with the ship. When Japanese bombers attack, the boat rapidly sinks. The nurses do indeed stay until the end and this is just the beginning of their dedication.

The nurses and other survivors float in the ocean until they finally reach an island off Malaysia. The Japanese stationed there send the women and children to a camp, and the men are sent to another camp. It will be three and a half years until the war ends and they are released. Three and a half years of fear, deprivation, starvation, cruelty, terrible conditions- how do they stand it?

This large group of nuns, nurses, and women who range from the elite to housewives, to a missionary, bond together with hope and love. (At the end of the war, it was noted that the women fared better than the men.) These women work together, solve problems, love and comfort children, and administer medical care. One of the highlights of the book are the touching and beautiful artistic performances by the women, which readers will never forget.

Author Heather Morris is known for her stories of the Holocaust. As notable as those were, “Sisters Under the Rising Sun” is even more beautiful and moving. I like that this book delivers a strong message without being graphic. At the end of the book, the author shares the follow up stories of some of the characters who survived, who were all real people. Although many died in captivity, I was happy to learn that most of the women who survived lived to an old age!

“Sisters Under the Rising Sun” will be published October 24, 2023. I highly recommend this book. Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for an advance review copy. This is my honest review. 1st

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Heather Morris’s ‘Sisters Under the Rising Sun’ is all about it sisters by blood, sisters in Christ, or a broader sisterhood of women brought together by circumstance. She has written with compassion and sensitivity. The story is emotive, thought provoking, awe inspiring and puts your everyday problems into perspective.

Considering the book is a based on true events, it is very compelling. It's definitely one of only a few books that will stay with me a long time. The story is unforgettable and keeps you thinking about it well after you've put it down.

Although upsetting and saddening, there is such a beautiful story at the heart that makes me envious of the power and optimism the women have.
This is the fourth book I’ve read by Morris and I continue to appreciate the attention to detail. I immediately was able to picture the characters as they were excellently portrayed and I could imagine the whole story with clarity.

This book wasn't as brutal and as hard hitting as some of the prisoner of war books I've read although equally saddening, therefore I feel this could be read by slightly younger readers without offending or upsetting.

I can't recommend this book highly enough, it a definite must read and gets 5 stars for a heart wrenching, empowering, and unforgettable read.

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This story begins in 1942 as Japan enters World War II, intending to take over the islands of the Pacific. In December of 1941, Guam, Wake Island and Hong Kong had already fallen, followed by the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaya, Singapore, and Burma.

As evacuees were being carried away from Singapore on the ’Vyner Brooke’, it wasn’t long before they were attacked by the Japanese Air Force, and the ship they were on was destroyed. Desperate to save their lives, many, but not all, made their way to Sumatra, Indonesia through sheer determination to survive. Many others, however, didn’t survive. This is the story of those who did manage to survive, but who were also captured by the Japanese. Men, women, and children were separated, then sent to prisoner-of-war camps, and were moved frequently, treated horribly, fed occasionally, but not enough to survive on. Most who died in the time that they were there, died of starvation, cruelty, or disease brought on by their living conditions.

This is based on the stories of real people who shared their personal stories, the horrors they witnessed, the brutality they endured, the friends they made as time passed, and how the death of so many that had been their friends affected them.

I’ve read a lot of stories of this era, of this war, but this one moved me to the point of tears. This heartbreaking story of war, loss, friendship, love, and memories that will haunt these women throughout their lives is one I will not forget any time soon.

Pub Date: 24 Oct 2023

Many thanks for the ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press

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5 stars! Heather Morris has written another incredible novel and I highly recommend it!

This compelling story details the bombing of the HMS Vyner Brooke off the coast of Singapore and depicts how the survivors spent 3.7 years in 5 different POW camps during World War II. Many of the survivors were Australian nurses who continued to sacrifice and care for others even in the worst of circumstances. The women were subjected to incredible neglect and suffering by the Japanese, but they remained defiant against their oppressors. The women came together to support one another, sharing their resources, endeavoring to maintain morale, and care for each other no matter the consequences. They used the power of song to lift their spirits and keep their hope alive.

Heather Morris shines a light on a horrific event in the Pacific and it is a story that is worthy of being told. When I finished the book what most resonated with me was the resilience of the women and the forever friendships that were forged amidst a backdrop of war. Their story is one that will stay with me for a long time.

I received an advance digital review copy of this book; all opinions are my own.

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