This is the second book in the ‘gritty, dark’ category that I have tried. Written by JG Ballard, it follows the story of a young boy called Jim as he is captured and held in a prison camp during World War II.
The novel begins when Jim is ten years old, and living in Shanghai with his parents. The Japanese invade and round up all the European citizens and hold them in refugee camps for the remainder of the war. It follows his story of being separated from his parents and captured, his befriending of camp occupants and eventually, his liberation from the camp.
Death is a permanent fixture in the novel – and no detail is spared with the living on their journey to death either. As a novel, some of the details are gruesome, which are exactly why I read these types of book.
The story itself is engaging, easy to read and emotionally moving in parts as well.
I did not like how the book ended, I found that aspect unrealistic. Jim was eventually reunited with both his parents, and considering the deprivation that they had all suffered, it seemed unrealistic that they both survived. Especially how others, younger and ‘stronger’, had died quickly. I felt that the need for a happy ending cheapened the story in some ways.
Gross factor: 9/10
The details are disgusting, but the grit only gets a 6 because of the forced ending!
3 thoughts on “Book Review: Empire of the Sun”
j G Ballard is one of my favourite writers. I can strongly recommend these from him ‘Atrocity Exhibition’, ‘Crash’, ‘High rise’, ‘Concrete Isalnd’ and Cocaine Nights’. For my money they are his best work.
Empire of the Sun was based on jis own childhood.
For an honest and gritty account of a prison camp in WWII perhaps consider ‘Hanged at Auschwitz’ by Sim Kassel. A school teacher and retired Army Officer who had liberated a concentration camp recommended it to me nearly 50 years ago just before I joined the military myself. I found the story so profound, I’ve had a copy in my library ever since. Best Wishes. Mark R.
That sounds like another one I need to add to my wishlist!