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The Kindness of Women


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About the Author

J. G. Ballard was born in 1930 in Shanghai. After internment in a civilian prison camp, his family returned to England in 1946. His 1984 bestseller 'Empire of the Sun' won the Guardian Fiction Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. His controversial novel 'Crash' was made into a film by David Cronenberg. His autobiography 'Miracles of Life' was published in 2008, and a collection of interviews with the author, 'Extreme Metaphors', was published in 2012. J. G. Ballard passed away in 2009.


Ballard is a brilliant writer whose Empire of the Sun has been his only major commercial success to date in this country. That mesmerizing novel, based on his childhood in 1930s Shanghai and internment by the Japanese, finds a sequel here. It takes the (lightly fictionalized) events of the author's life through three turbulent decades to end, ironically, with the making of the movie, with the narrator as a bemused extra, and his lifelong obsessions--with America, with planes, car crashes and the fantasies of technology--apparently exorcised. Women is a poignantly vivid account of Ballard's radically dislocated life in which the only constants have been an abiding love for his children and the variety of emotional and erotic consolations provided by a number of different, beautifully drawn women. Beginning with young Jamie back in embattled Shanghai, the novel follows him through return to England, an abortive fling at medical school and a try at flying for the R.A.F. before he settles into an idyllic marriage and the birth of his children--symbolically, in a Thames-side community next door to the great film studios where Empire would one day be recreated. The accidental death of his wife, hitting him, and the reader, with horrifying suddenness, is followed by years of bleakness, including drug experiments in the dizzy '60s, and a gradual return to calm resignation as some of his old friends die off around him. The story's outline may sound banal, but Ballard writing at the top of his powers offers an immediacy that is often visceral. His eye has never been more cinematic, and his love scenes, sexually explicit and often of older people no longer in their physical prime, are touchingly human and moving. But much is moving here: the way Ballard and the children cope with Miriam's death, the changes in a wild bohemian girl as she ages, the cancer death of a friend, the saving of a small girl from drowning. The Kindness of Women is full of scenes and moments that linger hauntingly in the mind, a piercingly honest, vibrant record of a very contemporary life. (Oct.)

'Autobiography taken to the highest reaches of fiction, another wonderful novel of scorching power' Observer

'The most modern of writers; his art engages with the artefacts and obsessions of the second half of this century in a manner and with an intensity unmatched by any other writer I can think of' William Boyd

'Quite as extraordinary an achievement as "Empire of the Sun" ... A dazzling construction, a sequence of chapters almost every one of which is a tour de force in its own right' Guardian

'Compulsively readable ... unbearably moving' Financial Times

'Brilliant ... Ballard at his best' Independent on Sunday

'The terrifying thing about Ballard is his logic; is this science fiction or history written ahead of its time?' Len Deighton

This elegantly structured sequel to Empire of the Sun ( LJ 11/1/84) begins again with a boy's traumatic experiences in Japanese-occupied Shanghai and ends some 40 years later with his viewing a film based on his novel about those experiences. Before this ``last act in a profound catharsis,'' however, the narrator Jim stumbles through medical study at Cambridge, trains briefly as an RAF pilot in Canada, marries, and suffers domestic tragedy. Jim both documents and participates in the violence and excess of the 1960s, but at various moments of crisis he is fortunate enough to experience the redemptive love of women. With penetrating topical commentary and abiding wisdom, this well-crafted novel should enjoy wide appeal. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/91.-- Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville

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