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Retracing her father’s heroic escape across China in World War Two leads his daughter on a gripping voyage of discovery about him, China and, inevitably, herself.

Stranger In My Heart (with foreword by HRH The Princess Royal) is about the search for understanding oneself, answering the question “Who am I?” by seeking to understand the currents that sweep down the generations, eddy through one’s own persona and continue on – palpable but often unrecognised. My father fought at the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941, was taken prisoner by the Japanese and then escaped in February 1942, making his way across 1200 miles of inhospitable country to reach China’s wartime capital at Chongqing. Seventy years later I retraced his steps in an effort to understand a man who had died when I was 18, leaving a lot of unanswered questions behind. My book is the quest that I undertook to explore my father’s life, in the context of the Pacific War and our relationship with China.

A picture of a man of the greatest generation slowly unfolds, a leader, a 20th Century Great, but a distant father. As I delve into his story and research the unfamiliar territory of China in the Second World War, the mission to get to know the stranger I called ‘Dad’ resolves into a mission to understand how my own character was formed. As I travel across China, the traits I received from my father gradually emerge from their camouflage. The strands of the story are woven together in a flowing triple helix, with biography, travelogue and memoir punctuated with musings on context and meaning.

"A well-written and deeply satisfying book, packed with information and adventure, as Mary Monro struggles to understand her WWII hero father, her inheritance, and herself. Above all, a damn good read!”
Damien Lewis, best selling author of “Hunting the Nazi Bomb”

Mary has written numerous technical and academic articles and is an experienced lecturer and presenter, but this is her first book. She lives in Bath with her husband, Julian Caldecott, and dog, Gobi. She practises as an osteopath in the picturesque Wiltshire town of Bradford on Avon. She treats people three days a week (see www.mmost.co.uk) and treats horses and dogs one day a week (www.hippokampos.co.uk and www.facebook.com/the2marys). She is a Trustee of the Sutherland Cranial College of Osteopathy (SCCO) and Member of the Royal Society of Medicine. She was formerly a marketing consultant, with five years experience at what is now Price Waterhouse Coopers, and three years with strategy consultancy, P.Four (now part of WPP). She began her marketing career with Cadbury’s confectionery and retains a lifelong love of chocolate.

Mary was born and raised at a farm on the edge of the south Shropshire hills, the youngest of four children. She attended Shrewsbury High School from age four to eighteen. She spent much of her childhood on horseback, which left her with permanent damage to her right eye, a broken nose, broken knee-cap and broken coccyx. She has been bitten, kicked, rolled on, dragged, and has fallen off too many times to recall, but she still rides racehorses for fun.

While we were surveying the scene over the cricket ground and Happy Valley racecourse two black kites, smaller cousins to our European red kites, flew overhead. I had the strangest feeling that somehow it was a wave from Dad. I almost said “Hello Dad!” out loud, but managed to stop myself. Nonetheless seeing these birds made me feel at home and that Dad was with me on my journey.

None of us knows what happens to us when we die and this is, perhaps, one of the consolations of grief – we can believe whatever we like. I have had a number of experiences over the years that lead me to believe that we retain some sort of presence after death. This seems to fluctuate such that when you are doing something that resonates strongly with the deceased, they in turn manifest more strongly. This trip to China was all about Dad and it was as easy as wallowing in a warm bath. On a subsequent visit with a more tenuous connection to Dad’s time in China, I didn’t feel him with me in the same way, and the trip was more difficult.

My reaction to the kites was visceral and immediate and it made me pay attention to the nature of my experiences during the rest of my trip. I realise that my sense of being accompanied may have been a construct of my mind to stave off fears about this challenging journey, but this first sighting was not consciously anticipated or sought. In my career as an osteopath I have had to learn to trust my hands and my intuition with the same confidence that I trust my eyes and my ears. At first one naturally cross-checks with more tangible evidence – if I can feel the impression of an impact injury, I quiz the patient about their history, for example – but gradually one accepts the veracity of incoming information from all of our sensory apparatus. It’s like going from black and white to colour.

Whilst I was in Hong Kong I made a side trip to Lamma Island. My sister Kathy had lived there in around 1980 and I was curious to see what it was like. Her usual style was to live in the most squalid conditions in a low rent part of town, whether it was Edinburgh or Cairo. Consequently I assumed that Lamma would be a dump, but I could not have been more wrong. It was far and away the most lovely part of Hong Kong and where I would have chosen to live if I were working there. I walked across the traffic-free island from one village to the other, stopping briefly at a cocktail bar on the beach, and was accompanied by yet another kite. I found my oblivious, soaring companion a great comfort. Visiting Kathy’s old haunt also stiffened my resolve. She was a proper “viaggatrice intrepida” who would quite happily hitchhike through a war zone with only a toothbrush and a spare pair of knickers in her backpack. I really had nothing to be fearful about on my fully guided, luxury hotel itinerary.

Read more...

Geopolitics in WWII

Monday, 24 July 2017

Dear friends, the manuscript has now been sent to an editor for 'structural edit' which will ensure that it makes sense, flows well and is structured to create the most interesting possible read. I quake in my boots awating its return at the end of August!

Meanwhile, here is an extract summarising what was going on in China in the early stages of WWII - well, early stages for us - Japan invaded…

Foreword by HRH The Princess Royal

Friday, 14 July 2017

Screen shot 2017 07 14 at 18.07.38

Fantastic news this week - we reached the funding target on Tuesday and today I received wonderful news: HRH Anne, The Princess Royal, has very kindly written a foreword for Stranger In My Heart. We have some connections - she is Patron of the British School of Osteopathy and has so far presented me with two degrees and a prize. She is also President of the Riding for the Disabled Association and…

Almost there!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

We are now at 97% of the funding target - tantalisingly close and just a very few more supporters needed. I have made up postcards advertising the book to hand out and, if you know of anyone who might be interested, do email them or I can send them a card if you let me have their details.

I hope you have seen the endorsement of my book from Damien Lewis, author of bestsellers such as Hunting The…

Intimate portrayal of battle

Thursday, 29 June 2017

I am humbled by your generosity in supporting my book. We are now at 90% of the funding target which is amazing in such a short time. Thankyou! Just a few more supporters needed...

This is an excerpt about the battle of Hong Kong, in December 1941, which was part of Japan's initial assault, along with the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Malaya and Singapore. Dad's diary entries give a vivid picture of…

Great start to the funding campaign

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Huge thanks to everyone who has supported me so far. After only a week we have already reached more than two thirds of the funding target. I plan to write an update once a week or so, and each time I will include a little snippet from the book. Please do share this project with anyone you know who might be interested. The more the merrier!

This is from the opening chapter, where I am puzzling over…

Zöe Yu Zhai
Zöe Yu Zhai asked:

Hello Ms. Monro, I am intersted in your book. Could you please share more of the book structure (chapters), and may I ask whether you will include the photocopies in the video into your book? (It's super interesting since I could read it.) Thank you very much.

Best,

Mary Monro
Mary Monro replied:

Hi Zoe, thanks for your question. You can find out more about the book at http://www.wodebaba.wordpress.com, including chapter summaries. I don't know about the video images - they could easily be included in the ebook but might add cost to the paperback. I shall consult my editor!
Best wishes
Mary

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