Researching the Raj

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On a visit to Udaipur in 1990

I’ve been fascinated by India from an early age. My father was posted to the North West Frontier – now the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan – in the 1930s, and used to tell many stories from his time there, as well as speaking fluent Urdu. This kindled my interest in the region.

On trips to India in my twenties I was struck by how British influence still pervaded, largely in the buildings and architecture, but in other ways too – in the bureaucracy encountered in booking a rail ticket, in the love for the English language, and in some traditions – the love of cricket, and tiffin in the afternoons. In some of the towns I visited – Agra and Jaipur for example – there were many forlorn, abandoned bungalows where British officials would once have lived, now derelict and crumbling, their gardens overgrown, together with churchyards full of graves of the British who had met an early death far from home. This got me wondering about the lives of those people – what must it have been like to make a home in such a different culture, so far from your roots, often in lonely and difficult conditions?

Please read the Full article here

 

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How family history inspired my writing: from the River Kwai to the Thames (article in this month’s Family Tree)

Ann Bennett reveals how her family history inspired her to write and publish her novels, including her latest, The Foundling’s Daughter

Eveline and Georgina Bennett – Wargrave, 1890
Two of my great aunts Evie and Georgie Bennett, Wargrave, 1890

I’ve always been inspired by history. As a child, the books I treasured most were the Ladybird History series, bringing to life the stories of inspiring historical figures as well as famous kings and queens. I also loved to write and illustrate my own stories. I carried both these interests into my adult life. I always kept a journal, tried my hand a short-stories and drafted a couple of full-length novels over the years, none of which saw the light of day.

It wasn’t until I embarked on research into my family history that I had the idea for a novel which eventually led me down the road to publication.

Researching Dad, a PoW in WW2

My father, Dick Bennett, before he joined the army in 1932
My father, Dick Bennett, around 1930

My father served in the Indian Army in the 1930s, signing up during the depression when there were very few jobs available in London. He was sent out to India and stationed on the North West Frontier for several years, and volunteered to serve in the Malaya campaign during at the start of World War II.

link to article here

The Foundling's Daughter

Asian Books Blog – Indie Spotlight

I’m proud to have been asked to write the regular Indie Author Spotlight for Asian Books Blog. Here’s a link to my first post–

Ann Bennett has just taken over our monthly column, Indie Spotlight, which focusses on indie authors and self-publishing.

Ann published her best-selling Bamboo trilogy, Bamboo HeartBamboo Island, and Bamboo Road, conventionally, through Monsoon Books. All three novels are set during and after World War Two, in Burma, Malaya and Thailand.  Bamboo Heart won the inaugural Asian Books Blog Book of The Lunar Year, for the Year of the Horse.

Ann chose to self-publish her most recent novel, The Foundling’s Daughter. It concerns a mystery with its roots in British India, during the Raj.

To kick-off as our new columnist, Ann here introduces herself, and her work.
Hello, I’m Ann Bennett and I’m delighted to be the new regular contributor for Asian Books Blog.

A bit about me. I’m English. I live in Surrey and work in London, but I have a passion for Asia particularly South East Asia. I took my first trip to the region in 1985 when I was in my early twenties, travelling from Bangkok to Bali, via Singapore, by public transport and have returned many times since. My interest was first kindled because my father had been a prisoner of the Japanese in Thailand and I wanted to find out about where he’d spent the war. He’d served in the Indian Army in the 1930s on the North-West Frontier near Quetta, and had volunteered to be posted to the Malaya campaign where he was one of the 100,000 Allied soldiers captured by the Japanese at the Fall of Singapore in February 1942. As a prisoner of war he worked on the Thai-Burma railway in several camps in Thailand and ended the war in Shirikawa Camp in Taiwan. He managed to survive three and a half years of starvation, disease and brutal treatment, and the sinking of his transport ship, the Hofuku Maru, but he retained a life-long love of India, and could speak fluent Urdu. He died when I was a child, and as I grew older I became increasingly interested in finding out about what had happened to him during the war.

My research into my father’s wartime experiences gave me the idea for my first novel, Bamboo Heart. Dad’s own story, which I discovered in his Liberation Questionnaire in the National Archives in Kew, London, formed the basis of the plot. Bamboo Heart was published by Monsoon Books in 2013. It was shortlisted in the best fiction category for the Singapore Book Publishers Awards and won the Asian Books Blog’s award in the Year of the Horse. I followed it up with two further books about the second world war in South East Asia; Bamboo Island, about a rubber planter’s wife who is caught up in the Japanese invasion of Singapore, and Bamboo Road, about a member of the Thai underground whose life is ripped apart by the war.

I’ve just released my fourth novel, The Foundling’s Daughter, which is partly set in British India of the 1930s. This is my first experience of self-publishing, so I am learning the ropes with a bit of help from friends who have already trodden the path.

The Foundling’s Daughter tells the story of three women connected across the decades by mysterious events that took place in an orphanage in England in the 1930s that has its roots In British India. One strand is the story of Anna Foster, told in diary form. Anna is the wife of British army officer, who lives the life of a reluctant memsahib on the British cantonment in a fictitious Indian town called Kandaipur. I started writing the Indian section of the book in the late nineties when my children were small. Back then it was entitled Shivaji’s Ladder. At that time I did a lot of research into the social history and lives of the British in India during the latter years of the Raj which I drew upon when I was writing Anna’s story for The Foundling’s Daughter.

In my next post I will describe what I found out about the lives of British ex-pats in the British Raj.

The Foundling’s Daughter by Ann Bennett book review

Thanks to Kraftireader for a lovely review of the Foundling’s Daughter.

kraftireader

the foundlings daughter

The Foundling’s Daughter written and self-published by Ann Bennett is available NOW in ebook and paperback format.  The ebook is also included in the kindleunlimited scheme.

To buy link: https://amzn.to/2UC1iC6

Book Blurb

Three Women connected down the decades by a mystery from the 1930s, with its roots in British India and an orphanage in Berkshire.
In 1934, Anna Foster, the wife of a British Army Officer, privately harbouring pain and remorse, sets sail from Bombay on a fateful journey home, a letter from a charismatic stranger — orphanage superintendent, Reverend Ezra Burroughs — in her pocket.
Seventy-six years later, Connie Burroughs, Ezra’s daughter, now in her nineties and in a care home, still lives in fear of her dead father. She guards his secrets loyally, but with a lifetime of regrets.
Sarah Jennings, escaping an unhappy marriage, moves to be near her ageing father. She buys Cedar Lodge, the crumbling…

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Here is my interview with Ann Bennett

Reblogging my interview earlier this week with Fiona McVie – authorsinterviews. Many thanks for having me on your blog Fiona!

authorsinterviews

Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

 

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?

Hi, I’m Ann Bennett and I had my 57th birthday a couple of weeks ago.

Fiona: Where are you from?

I was born in Pury End, a tiny village in Northamptonshire, England, but now live in Farnham in Surrey. In the interim I’ve lived in London, Paris (briefly), East Anglia, Devon and the Isle of Wight.

Fiona: A little about your self (ie,  your education, family life, etc.).

I’m the youngest of six daughters. I went to school in Northampton, and on to study law at Cambridge. I then qualified as a solicitor in London and worked in the City for a couple of years before having time out to travel to India and South East Asia. My dad…

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The Foundling’s Daughter

I’m proud to announce my latest book, ‘The Foundling’s Daughter’ is now available on Kindle here

The paperback is out now too at the following  link.

The Foundlings Daughter Cover LARGE EBOOK

The Foundling’s Daughter is the story three women connected down the decades by a mystery from the 1930s, with its roots in British India and an orphanage in Berkshire.

In 1934, Anna Foster, the young wife of a British Army Officer, privately harbouring pain and remorse, sets sail from Bombay on a fateful journey home, a letter from a charismatic stranger – orphanage superintendent, Reverend Ezra Burroughs – in her pocket.
Seventy-six years later, Connie Burroughs, Ezra’s daughter, now in her nineties and in a care home, still lives in fear of her dead father. She guards his secrets loyally, but with a lifetime of regrets.
Sarah Jennings, escaping an unhappy marriage, moves to be near her ageing father. She buys Cedar Lodge, the crumbling former home of the Burroughs family, a renovation project she hopes will bring peace of mind to trying times. But she’s not prepared for the shocking secrets she uncovers.Determined to track down the past, Sarah embarks on a quest to expose the chilling events that took place at Ezra Burroughs’ orphanage in the 1930s; a quest that will ultimately change her life.

Bamboo Trilogy – Book Giveaway

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To celebrate the publication anniversary of Bamboo Road, the final book in my SE Asian WW2 Trilogy, I’m giving away two signed copies of each book.

If you’d like a copy, please contact me via my website , this blog, or message me on my facebook page  letting me know which book you’d prefer and a postal address. If you’re able to post an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads in return  it would be much appreciated, but there’s no obligation!