A Blonde Bengali Wife

A Blonde Bengali Wife
Travels in Bangladesh

We've Nearly Made It

Hello and Welcome!



Where you will learn everything you
need to know about the progress of A Blonde Bengali Wife, the travel
book I've written about my love-affair with the fabulous country of

It's a blog about Bangladesh, about Bhola, and about fiction
and creative writing in general...

A Blonde Bengali Wife:

First published in September 2010 and launched in October 2010.

Reprinted and re-launched in November 2015 as an eBook available from Amazon UK/.com

#1 Amazon Bestseller

Follow it on Twitter @AnneHamilton7 and @Anne_ABBW and Goodreads

Buy it here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blonde-Bengali-Wife-Anne-Hamilton-ebook/dp/B016UDI86I

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Reflections on the Launch

Huge sigh of relief!

The people flocked in in their hundreds (well, a wonderfully affirming 68, not all of whom I knew) and stayed beyond the wine and canapes.  The venue was great, the books arrived in time for a long, snaking queue for signings and the attentiveness (other than from Simon who slept from beginning to end) of the audience to the readings and Jacqui's explanation about Bhola suggested that the evening justified a night away from the telly.  Best of all, I didn't fall flat on my face or say anything completely stupid (I don't think).

So, a big thank you to everyone who made it such a success - Neil & Caroline for their respective roles as compere and bar girl!! Ruth for seeing to the food, Julie & my mum for doing stuff that needed doing and Jacqui for the exhibition, the photographs and the 'speech'.  Jacqui Dunbar is a friend and  great photographer, who joined me on one of my longer visits to Bangladesh and was equally won over by both Bhola and the rest of the country; watch out for her photographic work - or hire her to take your pics!  She provided the photos for the book cover too.

It's a very positive start to sales and ongoing publicity and - most surprisingly of all - it was fun...

Now it's off to Ireland for a bit of a break before travelling to Washington DC for Thanksgiving.  Back next week when we've settled in.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The book that inspired a charity

Remember the theory of the 'six degrees of separation'?  Well, I met Dinah who met Bruna who took her to Bangladesh and introduced her to Ali who was running a small home-school for children with disabilities there... 

The detail is in the preface to A Blonde Bengali Wife, but put simply Dinah fell in love with the country and the people in exactly the way I had done.  More so, she was totally inspired by the work Ali was doing on the island of Bhola, and came home with the plan to set up a charity to support him.  Thus was born Bhola's Children and a lifelong relationship between us and them.

Still no sign of a publisher - but did it matter now?

Well, some more excellent rejections ('great book but we've just taken on one about a female cyclist in Sierra Leone' or 'if only the author was famous we'd snap it up' and - my personal favourite - 'there's just not enough sex or violence.  Can she jazz it up a bit?') when I met, purely by chance Zetta Brown of LL-Publications who heard an outline of the story and asked to see the manusript in full.  She liked it, she offered a contract.  And finally...

it's been a very long journey but the diary which became a book which was instrumental in establishing a charity has its formal LAUNCH TODAY.  More details tomorrow!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Scotland, May 2004

Rejection followed rejection once the manuscript for A Blonde Bengali Wife was completed.  And however nice the notes were, they were still rejections.  In fact, it's fair to say that the nice ones ('we loved this but...') are far more infuriating than the pre-printed photocopied slip complete with coffee stain and addressed to Miss Hambleton/Hamill (or on one occasion Mr Roy Thompson with reference to his novel The Byronic Man... If you're out there Roy, best of luck!)

I went back to Bangladesh.  When my flatmate of the time, a few weeks after my return to a job in Edinburgh, casually remembered that someone calling herself a literary agent had called in my absence and said I should phone back - who, when it was said flatmate wasn't sure, oh dear, was it important..?

Dinah Wiener, a very experienced and successful literary agent in London eventually took a risk on the book.  'It's not very commercial and I have doubts I'll ever manage to sell it,' was what she said, 'but I do feel passionate about it and it makes me want to go to Bangladesh.'

And go to Bangladesh she did.


PS The book launch is tomorrow.  The books, the focal point of the event, the things I am meant to be signing in front of a huge and enthusiastic audience(!) are somewhere in transit in courier-land. Is this an omen?

Friday, 12 November 2010

West of Ireland, September 2002

Back at home, back at work, full of stories about Bangladesh  - a veritable 'Bangla-bore' - and with a huge album of disappointing photographs (this was before I got a digital camera and I have no eye for photography) I turned towards the diary I had been diligently keeping whilst away.  Long and boring and self-indulgent, I looked at it again and again and began to think it would make a good travel book if I ever managed to edit it.  I'd always done a lot of writing but never finished anything full-length before so this was going to be a huge challenge; the aim to show the 'other side' of Bangladesh beyond the dismal and shcoking news reports that tend to sideline it for the Western world...

Fast forward to the present and yes, the reporter and photographer from the Evening News, duly interviewed me.  And simon.  And my mother.  No idea what the two (very nice) people thought of the chaos, or if/when there will be a story.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Something to wrap the chips in...

It seems that an afternoon round the kitchen table with Juliet and a pile of newspapers as well as the inevitable Google, has paid off. 

Whilst the book was sent direct from the publishers to the reviewers on the big nationals, we have been concentrating on the local papers and magazines.  The technique has been more along the lines of throwing darts at a board and aiming at reporters who prefer the heart-warming to the car-crash in the vain hope that 'the book which inspired a charity' angle will catch someones eye.

We've had several responses from interested journalists and whilst I doubt - realist or pessimist? - they'll actually become a story  it will be interesting research!  Interview with the Evening News tomorrow...

Friday, 5 November 2010

Edinburgh, November 2010

Q: Which is easier - launching a book or a baby?

The jury is still out on that one!  Simon is now nearly 12 weeks old and a giant baby, a definite endorsement of on-demand breast milk even if his mother is also going to be a giant trying to eat enough to keep up with him...

The book launch is in ten days time and the preparations are slowly falling (literally) into place.  This is due solely to the work of The Committee, my friends who were the slowest in thinking up excuses why they couldn't/shouldn't/wouldn't be able to listen to my desperate pleas for help in setting up the event.  I couldn't offer them much in return but - being three of the best women ever (or cheap dates the lot of them) - a couple of slices of cake and a cuddle of the baby was enough! 

So, Juliet (press releases), Caroline (along with the lovely Neil, venue and event organiser) and Ruth (food) - thankyou, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Leaving Bangladesh, April 2002

At Dhaka Aiport....
Suddenly there is an announcement over the tannoy system, which Munnu translates as my having to leave. We say a flurry of goodbyes—tearful in my case—and I load up my bags.

“But I don’t want to go,” I whine like child. “I want to stay here and take tea and go shopping with Hasina and on tours with you and sit in the SCI office and fill in evaluation forms and make Christine come back and…”
“Anne. You must go.” Munnu propels me forward. “Also you must return soon.”
At a sign that says “Departures. Passengers Only” we face a serious security guard who wants to check my papers. He asks Munnu a couple of questions, grunts doubtfully and waves us both along.
“What did you say to him?”
“I tell him my blonde Bengali wife departs the country leaving me behind her,” he grins. “He says I may come to the gate and wave to you.”
Suddenly it is time to go, and I load Munnu down with messages for everyone I can think of. There is so much to say, and yet there is nothing. I take a step forward, and then one back. I suddenly think of something I have been meaning to ask Munnu for weeks, and I must know before I go.
“Munnu,” I say. “What is calculus?”
He looks puzzled. “Calculus? I do not know. Why do you ask?”
“You must know.” I persist. “You’ve told me a lot of stories and in many of them you start by saying, ‘when I was in calculus…’ Is it something in college?”
He looks at me for a moment, and then laughs out loud. “Not calculus,” he explains. “Cadet class. I say ‘when I am in cadet class.’ It is a school that gives good education and also trains men for the Army. My mother sent me there, but I do not wish to be a military person. Cadet class,” he repeats. “Make sure this is correct in your travelling diary.”
“Yes, my diary,” I say. “I will send it to you. But how should I finish it? What will I say so people know how I feel about Bangladesh?”
“Anne. Long ago in Khalia you tell me that you come to Bangladesh because you want to have your story to tell. Yes? And now you have this story.”
I nod, touched that he remembers.
“So already you will have written everything. You just be simple.”
Since he is right, it is only fitting that I give Munnu the last words.
He thinks carefully: “Say: I said goodbye, I got in the airplane, and went home. The End,” he advises.
And this is what I do.
(ABBW Ch30)

It wasn't really the end, it still isn't, as this blog and the book both signify.  But it was the beginning of another long journey in which the diary became the book, begat a charity and is the basis for my ongoing 'life' in Bangladesh which has involved eight or nine visits to date - the next one with a baby???
So here starts another chapter...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Sunderbans, March 2002

We circumnavigate a small, oblong island that should surely sink beneath the jumble of tin shops and wooden houses, a tiny modern health centre dwarfed by an anti-AIDS poster campaign, and a school hut from which the children pour out, shouting and waving homemade flags. I have no time to ponder whether this is a daily event or laid on for our benefit because Gadji’s face appears by my right foot to point out the dense, green forest ahead of us. Slicing the water into a dual carriageway is the outermost point of the Sunderbans, the world’s largest littoral mangrove forest.
“What exactly is a mangrove?” I ask Munnu. “And are they always littoral?”
“Trees,” he answers comprehensively. “I do not know what littoral means.”
The inner forest is largely impenetrable by all but the tiniest vessels and the waterways are saltwater swamp, clogged with leaves and fallen trees. The Sunderbans are a UNESCO World Heritage site and a haven for birds and wildlife: humming birds to birds of prey, wild deer, monkeys, and every hour on the hour one of the boys pop up to say that he has definitely seen a Bengal tiger ready to pounce on a wayward crocodile. Then he adds thatta korchi: he is joking. Besides it’s okay because the tigers in this vast reserve are not habitual man-eaters.
Hiron Point, the most southerly point of the Sunderbans, is at least eight hours away by boat and so far beyond our capabilities. As it is, we barely penetrate the edges of the forest, yet even here the sheer variety of trees is immense. They come almost to the edge of the water (hence the term “littoral”), are stopped only by a slip of muddy beach, smooth and slippery and home to crocodiles during the rainy season.
At this point, a real writer writing a real journal would be able to list the trees, a brief but interesting description of their origins, lifespan and uses, possibly with footnotes and references to learned works. I groan out loud.
“Anne. What is the problem?” Munnu wakes up to ask me.
“I cannot name the trees. I don’t recognise any of them.”
“I help,” he turns his chair to the side, puts his bare feet up on the rusting red rail and makes a scientific observation. “Tall thin trees,” he suggests, “with big green leaves. Others with small leaves. Short, fat trees like a bush…Anne. Why do you not write this down?”
“Because you don’t know the names either,” I object.
“Yes. There—” he waves at a palm tree. “That is palm tree. And here, maybe this is...err...willow tree?”
(ABBW Ch28)

Sailing through the waters of the Sunderbans, on a vessel that looked like a pink four poster bed,with Munnu and the 'boat crew' was one of the highlights of the trip to Bangladesh: tranquil, beautiful and balmy (and, at times, barmy).  There was probably already an element of nostalgia too; it also meant that I couldn't put off the return home for too much longer...