Friday, December 26, 2008


Empire of the Sun, J G Ballard, Simon & Schuster, 1984, 279 pp

Perhaps I was just not ready for another POW camp story. After all, it was only two months ago that I suffered through Andersonville (MacKinlay Kantor, 1955). I did not enjoy one page of Empire of the Sun, although there were some good sentences. You may ask why I read it, a legitimate question. The answer is, it was for a reading group and it is part of my personal ethics always to attend the meetings and read the books for my reading groups if at all possible.

This book is an autobiographical novel about the years the author spent as a prisoner of the Japanese in Shanghai during WWII. He was only 11 years old when he was catapulted from his secure and privileged life in the International Settlement, separated from his parents and left to fend for himself as a prisoner of war. Yes, he was a wily survivor and lived to tell the tale. He is not even especially bitter about it; I suppose because as a child, one is better at taking life as it comes. I couldn't help thinking about what if that had happened to my sons at that age.

I have coined another name for a genre: prison camp lit. I remembered two others I have read: King Rat by James Clavel and Scum of the Earth by Arthur Koestler. I am sure I will come across others in my reading adventures. Maybe next time I will eat extra protein and green leafy vegetables while taking vitamin C.

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