Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton: An Autobiography” as Want to Read:
Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton: An Autobiography
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton: An Autobiography

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  672 ratings  ·  92 reviews
'Miracles of Life' opens and closes in Shanghai, the city where J.G. Ballard was born, and where he spent most of the Second World War interned with his family in a Japanese concentration camp.
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Fourth Estate (GB) (first published January 1st 2008)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Miracles of Life, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Miracles of Life

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeePride and Prejudice by Jane AustenThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonCloudstreet by Tim Winton
Australia's ABC1's First Tuesday Book Club
115th out of 124 books — 47 voters
Shanghai Girls by Lisa SeeWhite Shanghai by Elvira BaryakinaUnsavory Elements by Tom  CarterDr. 2 by Peter TieryasShanghai by Harriet Sergeant
Books Set in Shanghai
22nd out of 31 books — 26 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,261)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
MJ Nicholls
An amiable and moving autobio—light on insight into his enormous corpus, lyrical on his formative experiences and family. B.S. Johnson receives an unfortunate bashing: “Moving on the fringes of literary London for four decades, I have been constantly struck by how few of our literary writers are aware that their poor sales might be the result of their modest concern for their readers. B.S. Johnson, a thoroughly unpleasant figure who treated his sweet wife abominably, was forever telephoning and ...more
This is JG Ballard's autobiography, including a significant chunk that tells the true story on which "Empire of the Sun" is based.

The Chinese aspect was the main draw for me, but in fact his contact, experience and knowledge of Chinese people, food and culture was negligible. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and found some of his descriptions of pre-war Shanghai remarkably resonant with my experiences there in 1992 and 2008.


Ballard was born in Shanghai in 1930 and grew up in
* added a bit more to my review;

Ballard was born the same year as my father and they couldn't be more different. My previous impressions of what Ballard was like have flown out the window with this memoir - I think I used to stick him in some kind of pop art/warhol category after reading Crash, and I couldn't have been more wrong...although on an artistic level Ballard's writing - particularly Crash and The Actrocity Exhibition go into groundbreaking realms of simulacra as Baudrillard likes to
This is the autobiography of JG Ballard – the man famous for writing the novel Empire of the Sun. For me the book split clearly into two parts, firstly his fascinating experiences in China and post war Britain, and secondly his life as an author and father in Britain in the 60s and beyond.

Unsurprisingly, he writes with genius about his childhood in Shanghai. Under his pen Shanghai in the 30s and 40s comes alive – as a vast, decadent colonial playground on the one hand, and a place of deep povert
Jeff Jackson
Worthwhile for Ballard fans who should ignore the rating. This memoir is most notable for the vivid first half which details Ballard's surreal childhood in Shanghai and his imprisonment during WWII. It differs markedly in places from "Empire of the Sun" and makes a fascinating companion narrative. The second half offers selective glimpses of the next 50 years of his life in England, including the dreary post-war years which he describes as more traumatic than his time in the Chinese prison camp. ...more
The first part of this memoir is very charming. Ballard was raised in Shanghai during the 2nd World War, and it's fascinating how he lived an extremely wealthy life among the poor Chinese. Then the Japanese invaded China - and life turned on him in a brash manner. Yet he has no regrets about his past - in fact it seems he enjoyed particular aspects of Japanese rule as a child. Ballard has the ability to see the lightness that is totally dark and back again. He carries that with him regarding his ...more
Jim Coughenour
Ballard's memoir, only recently published in the US, appeared in Britain in 2008 and (as of tonight) has 369 ratings and 44 reviews – so mine is only flotsam on the flood. Just as well. My response to this book divided in the middle. Part I is set in Shanghai and provides a stark, surrealistic account of the story behind Empire of the Sun. Its matter-of-fact air only makes it more impressive. In Part II Ballard is back in England, recounting his family life, success as a writer and critical indi ...more
Steve Duffy
They say - and they may be right - that you should never meet your heroes. Be that as it may, I'm glad that my friend and I doorstepped J.G. Ballard at his Shepperton home back in the mid-1980s for an enjoyable and slightly surreal few minutes' chat. I'm even gladder that I didn't say anything too unforgivably gauche such as "Your books changed my life" (I didn't even bring any copies along for him to sign); if I managed to get across to him through my tongue-tiedness that they changed my percep ...more
J.G. Ballard's death autobiography makes an excellent read, illustrating a craft refined over decades of life, and perhaps arguing that Ballard was for much of his life in the wrong genre. the success of Empire of the Sun demonstrates that his two years in Japanese internment, as well as the Shanghai experience in general, was Ballard's most fruitful source of experience, and although arguments have been made that some of his prose includes, in somewhat veiled form, the idea of empires collapsin ...more
This is an autobiography from one of Britain's cherished novelists. I'm probably one of few who read this before reading "Empire of the Sun" and "The Kindness of Women"--the two autobiographical novels that J.G. Ballard wrote before being diagnosed with prostate cancer and writing this autobiography.

His parents were English, but Ballard was born and raised in the international settlement of Shanghai. During the Pacific war, Ballard and his family were interned in a camp. He tells about this exp
A straight forward chronology of the life of an author. I found this almost like reading a Wikipedia article, yet it made me want to read much of his work. I had no idea he was the subject of "Empire of the Sun", though I knew he wrote "Crash".
Tracy Terry
Whilst not a big fan of memoirs/autobiographies in general I did enjoy Empire Of The Sun and so had a passing interest in this author.

The child of British parents living in Shanghai, JG (James 'Jim') Ballard spent his formative years incarcerated in a Japanese prisoner of war camp which having read this obviously informed much of his 1984 novel.

Essentially chronicling his experiences between 1930 and 2007. Whilst for myself, having read Empire Of The Sun, there was very little new to learn of hi
James Murphy
J. G. Ballard's story is familiar to us all, how as a boy in Shanghai before and during the war he was interned with his parents and other British and European nationals. I've always admired imagination in writing. What Ballard did with those experiences and how he represented it in Empire of the Sun, to my mind, demonstrated a high level of imagination. It, and the later novel The Kindness of Women, in which he brilliantly covers the same material in the opening 3 chapters, draw heavily on thos ...more
The act of telling a story well can be at least as interesting as any well-told story. In autobiography there is the story, but there is also the performance - you can't change the facts (very much) but you do have to decide how you will perform your life for your audience. Ballard makes a good show of it.

I have never seen Empire of the Sun or Crash nor read any of J. G. Ballard's books. I had no prior interest in or awareness of his existence, outside of being aware of Empire of the Sun and ass
William Koon
A marvelous work tracing much of Ballard's remarkable journey as a writer and a human being. Of course, the first part when he is a Japanese POW near Shanghai is the most important part of the work. He writes through a child's eyes and does it wonderfully. You feel as the child, not as someone looking down on a a child or looking back as an adult.

Equally fine is his description of post WWII England as a bleak and dreary landscape of people and ideas. I know know of no better portrait of a "defe
Hilary Hicklin
A book of two parts. The first half describing Ballard's childhood in Shangai and his iternment with his family in a Japanese camp during the Second World War (on which Empire of the Sun is based) is superb. Well described, very reflective, and gripping.

Unfortunately the second half which describes his life after coming to England as a teenager lacks the intensity and detail of his early years and becomes a rather dry account of his literary struggles to achieve success in science-fiction. Ironi
Kathe James
I want to read his whole catalogue now.
Ballard wrote this autobiography when he was dying from cancer. Ballard grew up in Shanghai in the 30's as part of the privileged ex pat community. His father ran a printing plant. They lived in a house on the outskirts of the city and the international zone. It was a life of privilege with ten servants.little did they know that this fantastic existence was soon to be obliterated by the Japanese who would expose the lie of white supremacy and sweep away the western imperialists hold over China. ...more
Mark Love
There are many people whose names are mentioned in all the right places, and for whom I have uttmost respect, and yet I am ashamedly ignorant of. Nick Cave, Thomas Pynchon and Francis Bacon fall into this category, and so does J G Ballard.

The only previous book of Ballard’s that I have read is The Atrocity Exhibition (prompted by Joy Division’s song of the same name) which was an anarchic and unstructured glimpse into a mind that was darkly subversive yet held fiercely traditional values. Miracl
Richard MacManus
JG Ballard is one of my favorite fiction writers. I read Crash and several of his other highly imaginative works when I was younger. Crash is my favorite, a controversial concept novel about sexual fantasies mixed with car crashes. Ballard explains the genesis of that book in one brief chapter. But the bulk of Miracles of Life is his description of growing up in Shanghai, including 2.5 years in an internment camp with other British expatriates in the early 1940s, when Japan had invaded China. He ...more
I read Ballard's science-fiction in my science-fiction-reading days (otherwise known as 'my youth') but have not yet read 'Empire of the Sun', which I understand is his biographically-inspired masterpiece. However, this short autobiography is superb. It is the most understated, low key yet gripping account of a really extraordinary life of lost innocence, spanning sharply contrasting eras and experiences. These include a childhood with emotionally unavailable parents, sybaritic ex-patriate life ...more
Umberto Rossi
È stata una lunga marcia, quella di James G. Ballard, che fino al 1984 godeva di fama e attenzione solo tra gli appassionati della fantascienza, ma che da allora in poi si è guadagnato un posto di tutto rispetto nel panorama letterario britannico. Ormai è un nome rispettato e le sue opere sono oggetto di corsi universitari, convegni accademici e saggi critici pubblicati da editori rispettabilissimi. E dire che nei primi anni Novanta il film tratto da Crash (diretto da Cronenberg) venne boicottat ...more
J.G. Ballard reminisces about his life and family, with particular attention to his childhood in Shanghai and in a Japanese internment camp, experiences that seem to have formed the basis for so much of his writing (obviously Empire of the Sun, but others as well). I occasionally found myself questioning some of his speculations about the inner lives and motivations of various people, including his parents and he maddeningly hints at/glosses over certain things (e.g. his single experience with L ...more
Colm Fitzgerald
A most certainly surreal exploration of Ballard's life. Far from a traditional autobiography too, which is just as well as his works as a whole are far from traditional themselves. Lunghua influenced him quite considerably and even though was probably a difficult experience he speaks of it very fondly. All in all I think this book will be a useful preamble to reading Empire of the Sun and the Kindness of Women, for the Shanghai experience is now well understood.
Roy White
A memoir written during the author's final illness, Miracles lacks some of the poetic flair of Kindness of Women (a novelized version of many of the same events), but but also lacks some of the wallowing in pointless violence and unpleasant sex. JGB has many good stories to tell, and is an appealing would be fun to hear the same stories told from someone else's perspective.
From his childhood in a prisoner camp in Shangai during WWII to his going back to it after a 40 years hiatus (a lovely chapter and description of how memory works), the book is a depiction of how these events influenced his major life decisions and his most famous works.
The book is divided in many chapters, each one an important year of his life telling a.o. the relation with his parents and fellow prisoners while being in the camp, the post-war England in a bourgeois family (and how to get away
At first I was a bit worried that Ballard was going to cover mostly the same ground as in "Empire of the Sun", but although accounts of his time in Shanghai during his childhood, then briefly in 1991, bracket the book, it gives a delightful chronicle of his entire life. And a happy, uneventful life it was, for the most part, which comes as a surprise when you think of the relentlessly dystopian universe depicted in his fiction. The book is so charmingly written that I finished it at one seating, ...more
Very entertaining read, a book that touches on a very wide range of subjects, like growing up in a war and the workings of the modern literary and art world. It is really well written, surprisingly easy if you consider Ballard's avant-garde status. His life has been an impressive one but he writes about it almost with understatement, with sudden parts of poetic prose. Most impressive were his descriptions of pre-war Shanghai and his experiences of growing up there, and later in life his search f ...more
Normally I prefer biographies to autobiographies, believing - to quote Bart Simpson describing Krusty's tome - they are largely "self serving with many glaring omissions". However I would thorougly recommend Ballard's memoir.

A series of essays rather than a laborious trek through his life, Ballard describes the crucial incidents that made him as a man and him as a writer. Even though he is dealing with the more mmundane, his genius for seeing the ordinary in a truly unique way means that no chap
Book Punks
This book was pretty boring. Though Ballard describes some insanely interesting parts of his life, he always seems to leave out just the bits you want to hear about. There were probably about six pages worth of interesting statements in the entire book. Perhaps mildly more interesting to his really obsessive fans, but not interesting of itself. Not his best writing. Ho hum.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 42 43 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
J.G. Ballard: Miracles of Life 4 12 Feb 13, 2013 01:42AM  
  • Letters of Ted Hughes
  • The Delighted States
  • Visiting Mrs Nabokov and Other Excursions
  • Constellation of Genius: 1922: Modernism Year One
  • A Book of Dreams
  • Yesterday Morning
  • J.G. Ballard (RE/Search #8/9)
  • Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in Its Downfall
  • Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural
  • Rodinsky's Room
  • Call Me Burroughs: A Life
  • Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic
  • Charles Dickens
  • The Total Library: Non-Fiction 1922-1986
  • Mind Over Matter (Delta Expedition)
  • Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard
  • The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics
  • Palimpsest
James Graham "J. G." Ballard (15 November 1930 – 19 April 2009) was an English novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Ballard came to be associated with the New Wave of science fiction early in his career with apocalyptic (or post-apocalyptic) novels such as The Drowned World (1962), The Burning World (1964), and The Crystal World (1966). In the late 1960s and early 1970s Ballard focused on a ...more
More about J.G. Ballard...
Crash Empire of the Sun High-Rise The Drowned World Concrete Island

Share This Book