Amid the turmoil of World War II, Norah Chambers, an English musician living in Malaya, sends her eight-year-old daughter Sally away on a ship bound for Australia, desperate to keep her safe from invading Japanese forces.
Two months later, Norah has fled to Singapore. As has Australian nurse Nesta James, who had originally enlisted to care for Allied troops. But as the Japanese Army overruns the former British colony, she joins a terrified cargo of people, including the heartbroken Norah, crammed aboard the merchant ship Vyner Brooke. Only two days later, they are bombarded from the air off the coast of Indonesia, and in a matter of hours, the Vyner Brooke has sunk. After surviving 24 hours in the sea, Nesta and Norah reach the beaches of a remote island, only to be captured and held in a succession of Japanese POW camps, places of starvation and brutality, where disease runs rampant.
But even here, joy can be found by those with the will to defy their desperate circumstances. When Norah forms a 'vocal orchestra', with the women's voices taking the place of instruments, their music has the power to bring hope into the midst of despair.
Sisters in arms, Norah and Nesta fight side by side, discovering in themselves extraordinary reserves of courage, resourcefulness, humour and hope in their determination to retain their humanity by caring for others.
Drawing upon their real-life experiences, Heather Morris chronicles the powerful bonds of sisterhood among the 500 Australian, English, Dutch and New Zealand women who struggled and survived together for nearly four years. The result of Heather's passionate commitment to ensuring that the bravery of these nurses, mothers and daughters is recognised, Sisters under the Rising Sun has all the elements loved by her millions of readers: strong women, courage against the odds and the power of friendship and community.