Since I began this Staying in with… feature on Linda’s Book Bag I’ve chatted to many, many authors about their books. Today, I welcome Mary Monro whose story has an added extra as I think you’ll agree.
If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.
Staying in with Mary Monro
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Mary. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought Stranger In My Heart, my book about my quest to explore the stranger I called Dad, 30 years after he died. I want to inspire people to explore their own family histories, because so often we don’t really know our parents and grandparents, other than title and role, and they have much to teach us about who we are. The theme of my Dad’s life is resilience, and it reverberates through his whole story. The Chinese are an extraordinarily resilient people and I have been inspired by my travels in China, retracing Dad’s wartime exploits, as well as by learning how he coped – thrived even – in adversity.
(You’re absolutely right Mary. So many people I know wish they had asked more when parents and grandparents were alive. I’m so glad I had time to talk with my Dad before he died.)
What can we expect from an evening in with Stranger In My Heart?
It’s a mixture of Second World War adventure, with a daring escape from a Japanese PoW camp in Hong Kong across 1200 miles of war torn China; a biography of one of the many unsung heroes of the Greatest Generation; and my own journey of discovery, retracing Dad’s escape route across modern China and researching the context of his story and how it fitted in with the Far East war strategy. Along the way I discovered Dad’s connection to the creator of King Kong (Merian Cooper – who also flew the plane in the finale – see https://youtu.be/NOq8IjDMKIw), how he went climbing with Sherpa Tenzing in 1946 and how he was a founder of the Riding for the Disabled Association in the 1960s!
Dad (Left), Tenzing Norgay (middle), another Sherpa
(Wow! What a life he led Mary. You must be so proud of your Dad.)
Damien Lewis, author of Hunting The Nazi Bomb says of the book “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!”
(What a lovely response.)
What else have you brought along and why?
I have a folder full of Dad’s papers from WWII – his travel pass for China, a report on conditions in the PoW camp in Hong Kong, a letter from General Wavell congratulating him on his escape, letters to family, old photographs etc.
(These are absolutely fabulous documents Mary. Thank you so much for sharing them with Linda’s Book Bag readers.)
We could drink Chinese tea and look at my photos from when I retraced his escape route across China!
(I’m always up for a cup of tea and a nose through other people’s photos Mary. I’ll put the kettle on!)
Guiyang, Guizhou and Rice Terraces, Guangzi
(You can see all my photos and blog about my travels here.) I met many amazing people along the way and fell in love with China and its fascinating culture and history. China and Dad were both undiscovered countries to me and both needed a lot of time and effort to explore, both preserve a few secrets, but both rewarded me with an enormously enriching experience.
Karst landscape Guangxi
Linda’s Book Bag readers might like to know that there is a Spotify playlist for Stranger In My Heart here and that it will be released on 9th June – my father’s birthday!
What brilliant timing! Thank you so much for staying in with me Mary, to introduce Stranger In My Heart. I feel very privileged to have found out about your Dad and your travels tracing his steps. What a wonderful way to preserve his memory. I’m sure he would be touched and delighted to see what you have done.
Stranger in My Heart
Stranger in My Heart describes the transformation of a stranger called ‘Dad’, who died in 1981, into someone the author knows and honours, while expanding her own sense of self and enriching her life. It began at her mother’s 80th birthday party in 2007 when a friend described her father as a ‘20th Century Great’. Mary Monro already knew her Dad had fought in Hong Kong in 1941, had been imprisoned by the Japanese and had escaped across China. She didn’t know that he had been Assistant Military Attaché in China 1942-43 and had hatched a plan to evacuate all the PoWs he’d left behind in Hong Kong; or that he’d fought in the blood and sweat stained hell of Burma 1944-45.
About Mary Monro
Mary lives in Bath with her husband. She practises as an osteopath in the picturesque Wiltshire town of Bradford on Avon, treating people three days a week and horses and dogs one day a week.
Mary is a Trustee of the Sutherland Cranial College of Osteopathy and Member of the Royal Society of Medicine and Association of Animal Osteopaths. She was formerly a marketing consultant, with 5 years experience at what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers, and three years with strategy consultancy, P.Four (now part of WPP). She began her marketing career with Cadbury’s confectionery.