Friday, October 09, 2015

Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard


Jim is just a kid when World War II comes on Shanghai. An American ship it attacked in the harbour and in the chaos that follows, Jim is separated from his parents. He's taken to a hospital but escapes and roams the city. The Chinese are no help, the Japanese are not interested in Jim at all, and there aren't many Europeans around to help him. Jim tries to go back to his family home but eventually Japanese move in there and Jim has to move on. He tries to turn himself in to the Japanese multiple times but it doesn't work. Only when he hooks up with two thieves does he finally manage to become a prisoner of the Japanese.

How does a young boy process the war? Jim doesn't understand it and is excited by the action he sees. He's in awe of the Japanese pilots. And he's not really scared. The adults that surround Jim and take care of him while they're held prisoner try to do their best by him but he's his own person and it's hard to point him in the right direction, if they can even figure out what that is.

I picked this book up because I'm travelling to China soon and wanted a book that takes place in the area. This was a very interesting one. Usually WWII books take place in Europe and speak about the Americans/Europeans. This one takes place in a country not really involved in the war as the Japanese take over. Furthermore, it's from the view point of a child which adds to the intrigue.

There are some confusing parts to this book. I had troubles keeping some items straight. It felt like Jim took hours to walk from one location to another, only to go back to the original location quickly. I'm not sure if I misunderstood but this seemed to be a recurring problem.

I had no clue this was a movie. One with Christian Bale as a kid no less. It's an interesting story; I'd be interested in seeing how it translates over to the big screen.

First Line: "Wars came early to Shanghai, overtaking each other like the tides that raced up the Yangtze and returned to this gaudy city all the coffins cast adrift from the funeral piers of the Chinese Bund."


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