Category Archives: Bamboo Trilogy

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

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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.

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!

 

 

 

Blogpost on Tripfiction: Talking Location with author Ann Bennett – Kanchanaburi and the Death Railway

7th July 2017

#TalkingLocationWith … author Ann Bennett, shares her experience of researching Kanchanaburi and the Death Railway, for her third novel in the Thai-based Bamboo Trilogy – Bamboo Road

“The location for Bamboo Road chose itself. It is the third book in my WWII trilogy based in South East Asia and is set in Kanchanaburi in Thailand. It is the town in which the real Bridge on the River Kwai is located and the headquarters for the building of the Thai-Burma railway. By the time I came to write Bamboo Road, I had already written one novel partly set in and around the town. Bamboo Heart is the story of a prisoner enslaved on the railway.”View from train along tressles - resized

The rest of the post  can be read at at this link

Jungle Heart: free download

I’m offering a free download of my new short story, Jungle Heart based on an episode in Bamboo Heart . It is shortly to be launched by Monsoon Books. If you’ve already read Bamboo Heart, you might be interested to read more about Tom’s struggle to survive the war in SE Asia. If you haven’t, I’m hoping it will encourage you to read the book!

If you’d like to download a free copy, please sign up to my website or like my new author facebook  page and message me your email address. I will then send you the EPUB and MOBI files published by Monsoon Books with instructions. It may be read on Kindle, iPhone,iPad,Android,e-readers and desktop ..JungleHeartcoverjpeg resized

 

 

Ann Bennett describes the background to her “Bamboo Trilogy”

Great to be featured on Liz Lloyd’s blog Lost in a good book’ today.

Lost in a good book

Today I have great pleasure in welcoming Ann Bennett to Lost in a Good Book to tell us about her intriguing Bamboo Trilogy.

ABann photo No2

When did you start to write, Ann?

I’ve been writing in my spare time on and off for over twenty-five years and have several half-finished novels and numerous short stories in my collection which I might one day dust off and revive!  In 2014 I was lucky enough to submit Bamboo Heart to Monsoon Books who liked it enough to offer me a publishing deal.

Better B Heart

What was your inspiration for Bamboo Heart?

The idea for Bamboo Heart came from researching my father’s wartime experiences. He fought in the Indian Army in the Malaya campaign and was taken prisoner at the Fall of Singapore. He worked on the Thai-Burma railway and survived the sinking of a hell-ship off the Philippines.

AB Death Railway _ Australian War Memorial Photograph of the Death Railway from the…

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BAMBOO ISLAND now out in the UK

Bamboo Island  now out in paperback in the UK, is the second book in my Bamboo IslandSouth East Asian  World War II trilogy published by Monsoon Books. It is the story of a British ex-pat, Juliet Crosby, a rubber planter’s wife who is caught up in the tragic events of the Japanese invasion of Malaya and Singapore. Read an extract from Chapter 1 on my website here

The book opens in 1962. Juliet has been living a reclusive life on her plantation since the Second World War robbed her of everyone she loved.

The sudden appearance of a young woman from Indonesia disrupts her lonely existence and stirs up unsettling memories. Together they embark on a journey to Singapore and to ‘Bamboo Island’ in Indonesia to uncover secrets buried for more than twenty years.

The idea for the trilogy came from researching my father’s wartime experiences. He was taken prisoner at the Fall of Singapore, worked on the Thai-Burma railway and survived the sinking of the hell-ship, Hofuko Maru, off the Philippines. In the course of my research, I read a lot about the Malaya campaign and the Fall of Singapore. I was struck by how the lives of everyone in the region were affected by the war and the Japanese occupation. I read horrific stories of massacres, of starvation, of unbelievable cruelty, but also amazing tales of sacrifice, hope and survival.

Fall of Singapore

After I’d written Bamboo Heart, the story of Tom Ellis a prisoner on the Death
Railway, I wanted to go back to that time and place to write about the effect of the war and occupation from a different perspective. I chose to write from the viewpoint of an ordinary woman who had made a life in Malaya, but whose life was transformed by the war.

I wanted to show how the war engulfed the region, how it destroyed families and lives.

Bomb Damage Singapore

It was important, though, for my central character, Juliet, to be involved in her own personal struggle before the invasion changed everything.

early-history-of-george-town-penang-29-638

In the 1930s, Juliet travels from London to Penang with her sister Rose, initially for a visit, but both soon decide to settle in Malaya.

Juliet marries a rubber planter and goes to live with him on his estate, but she quickly discovers that all is not quite as might first have appeared. Her life is already in turmoil when war breaks out.

Rubber Tree Plantation

Through Juliet’s eyes the reader witnesses the horrors of the Japanese occupation, the Alexandra hospital massacre, the sook ching (elimination by purification) and the brutal treatment of internees in Changi. The sinking of the civilian transport ship, the Vyner Brooke, and the massacre of survivors on a beach on Bangka Island off Sumatra was the inspiration for the sinking of a fictitious ship (the Rajah of Sarawak) which is central to the plot of Bamboo Island. In fact Banka Island is the real-life inspiration for the fictional Bamboo Island in the book.

Bangka Island

My aim (as in Bamboo Heart) was to bring the dreadful events of that period to life through the story of one character.

I’ve traveled a fair amount in far flung outposts of the former British empire since my first trip from Bangkok to Bali in 1985. I stayed in crumbling guesthouses in India, Burma, Sri Lanka and Malaysia which would once have been the sumptuous homes of British ex-pats. These places kindled my interest in the people who, in the days of empire, traveled half way across the world to make a new life in the East. That’s how Juliet first came into my mind – sitting on the veranda of her decaying house, looking back over the years, thinking about the people she loved and lost, and how the war and the Japanese occupation transformed her life…

Abandoned Colonial  Mansion