Heather Morris brings another powerful and captivating true story to life: Sisters under the Rising Sun

© Tina Smigielski

Internationally bestselling phenomenon Heather Morris brings another powerful true story to life: the women imprisoned by the Japanese during WWII and their astonishing courage and determination to survive.

Zaffre, the adult fiction imprint of Zaffre Publishing Group at Bonnier Books UK, is thrilled to announce Sisters under the Rising Sun, the phenomenal new novel of resilience and survival from internationally bestselling author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris. It was acquired by Margaret Stead, Publisher at Zaffre and Manilla Press, in a two-book deal with World All Language Rights.

Sisters under the Rising Sun will be published this September in hardback, eBook and audio and supported by a major publicity and marketing campaign. This will be a global launch, with simultaneous publication in Australia by Echo, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK, and in the US by St Martin’s Publishing Group.

Sisters under the Rising Sun is an astonishing story of resilience and endurance that will captivate readers of Heather Morris’s previous multi-million copy bestsellers, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Cilka’s Journey and Three Sisters. Heather has met family members of the women on whom she based the novel, and they are delighted that readers around the world will discover the heartbreaking and uplifting tale of these courageous women.

Based on true events, Sisters under the Rising Sun is a story of sisterhood, bravery, friendship, and survival. In the midst of WWII, 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.

Heather Morris said: ‘In my next novel, I recreate a largely overlooked episode of World War II. Sisters under the Rising Sun tells the story of a group of women from Australia, England, the Netherlands and beyond, who were captured by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1942 and held in brutal conditions in a camp in the Indonesian jungle. Based mainly upon the real-life experiences of Australian nurse Sister Nesta James and English musician Norah Chambers, my novel explores the powerful bonds of sisterhood of over 500 hundred women who struggled and survived together for nearly four years. I’m honoured and proud to be giving a voice to these women and their incredible courage and resilience.’

Margaret Stead, Publisher, said: ‘With Sisters under the Rising Sun, Heather once again brings to life a chapter of history and in doing so tells a story of hope and bravery. This is very much a tale of women in war – largely overlooked by the history books – grippingly and powerfully evoked. Working with Heather as she painstakingly researches and writes has been a joy, and we are so excited and proud to be publishing her breathtaking novel this autumn.’

Sisters under the Rising Sun will be published on 28 September 2023 in hardback, trade paperback, eBook and audio.

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