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The Kindness of Women (Empire of the Sun #2)

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  929 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
In this sequel to his award-winning Empire of the Sun, young James returns to England at the end of World War II. He stumbles through medical study at Cambridge, trains briefly as an RAF pilot in Canada, and marries. When his wife dies suddenly, Jim is thrust into the violence and sexual promiscuity of the sixties. Penetrating and wise, J. G. Ballard's biting social commen ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published November 27th 2007 by Picador (first published December 15th 1991)
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Manny
Jan 30, 2009 Manny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This semi-autobiographical book contains one of the more bizarre and memorable seduction scenes I've come across. He's just met the woman, and he's standing in her kitchen. He asks her if she's married. She says she's divorced, but her ex-husband comes round every week to wash his clothes in her washing machine, and then they usually have sex.

"Do you have anything to wash?" she adds as an afterthought.

He's only got a pocket handkerchief, but that turns out to be enough.
J.A. Carter-Winward
Masterful storytelling, challenging our perceptions of convention.

After reading a literary disaster (The WallCreeper by Nell Zink) I was over-the-top relieved to be introduced to a true storyteller in reading The Kindness of Women by J.G. Ballard.

As I understand, this is the sequel to Empire of the Sun, which I did not read. I'd usually read the first one beforehand, but in this case, I was too eager to read Kindness to bother.

This book is so rich. Ballard leaves nothing bare, painting and bui
...more
Darius
Jul 23, 2011 Darius rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-uk
Rather than 'The Kindness of Women', perhaps this novel should be called 'The Secretions of Women'. In a sequence of sexual encounters, described in forensic detail for no discernible reason, bodily fluids ooze from every orifice. These graphic and sometimes disgusting descriptions of the sexual life are soaked in sweat, blood and mucus. Ballard's women, with all their lumps and bumps, their spots and scars, are as clinically described as is the female cadaver that he dissects as a medical stude ...more
Daniel Levin
Mar 13, 2015 Daniel Levin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Insight into an author, and the insane changes since WWII
I found his well-known, semi-autobiographic "Empire of the Sun" so interesting, I had to read this follow-up. What makes this novel stand out is that the main character is both very normal (a shy middle class middle aged father living in a UK suburb) and very weird (a man who is involved in one bizarre adventure after another, which are often significant artistic events, with very original creative people). This contrast gives the novel a
...more
Stephen Durrant
Ballard picks up in this book roughly where he left off in "The Empire of the Sun," although "The Kindness of Women" is more transparently autobiographical than the earlier work in which he took a few very significant novelistic freedoms. One powerful episode from Ballard's boyhood appears in both works and becomes an image of violence that will stalk Ballard throughout his post-Shanghai years: just at the end of the war, he encounters a group of Japanese soldiers at an otherwise deserted suburb ...more
Janice
May 24, 2011 Janice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
when i was in grammar school or jr. high school (middle school to some of you freaks) i read "the world according to garp" and my eyes were jerked wide open, revealing so suddenly that adulthood was a desolate place where i wasn't sure i ever wanted to be. there was a build-up of this feeling throughout the book, but i distinctly remember the exact scene where this warning exploded in my face, making everything crystal clear and filling me with a nihilism that took me decades to shake.

this book
...more
Philip Craggs
Jan 26, 2013 Philip Craggs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The sequel to 'Empire Of The Sun' continues Jim's story through adulthood. Being told in the first person (as opposed to 'Empire's' third) makes this feel even more autobiographical than 'Empire', especially as Ballard deals with the well-known elements of his own life - the death of his wife and his decision to raise his three daughters by himself. Ballard's medical training has always had a major influence on his writing (he dissects subjects like Jim autopsies a corpse) and he doesn't spare h ...more
carolime
Dec 29, 2007 carolime added it
Recommends it for: dreamers
not as enjoyable as 'empire of the sun', provided you enjoyed empire of the sun. this book more closely examines the grown-up consciousnesses of "james", writer, and foil for author j.g. ballard. downright scandalous in the sexy parts, and quite realistic in terms of philosophical mumblings. what this book lacks (and what comprised my favorite parts of empire of the sun) are the lush descriptions of the asian world that housed young james- his internee camp at lunghua, his parents' residences in ...more
Jo
Mar 30, 2010 Jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I prefered this one to Empire of the Sun. I guess it's because Empire was confined to a limited area, mostly prisoner of war camps. This book scaled many years starting with the end of the war and ending when Jim was in his 50's. It was interesting to read about his move to England and how the war had affected him. I really felt for him in this book and followed his life with interest. I am glad that i read this one as i enjoyed it quite a lot.
Michelle
Apr 14, 2014 Michelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a weird book. I can't deny that Ballard is a good writer. However, not only did it feel like it was written purely because the author had success with the first one and wanted to keep gleaning that self-centered success as long as possible (with or without a story), it felt like "the kindness of women" really meant "all the sex I had with women who were not my wife."
Chrissie
A sequel to Empire of the Sun! I din't know about this at all. Thanks Cassiel for bringing it to my attention.
Lesley
Mar 22, 2016 Lesley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
JG Ballard's "fictional autobiography" posed some problems for me. Jim, having left the "Empire of the Sun" (also classed as a fictional autobiography) tries to make sense of the Post War world he finds himself in. My problem is that it is so difficult to engage with a book that is so obviously autobiographical, and you can't sift the truth from the fiction.
Jim is obsessed with two themes throughout the book: sex, and death. Sexual encounters (and there are a lot) are described in the most clini
...more
Martin Boyle
Jan 22, 2016 Martin Boyle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
This book is good in parts: fictionalised autobiography and a sequel to the excellent Empire of the Sun, it overlaps (and gives a different version) of the end of the war. It then lurches through a number of episodes in, what might most politely be described as, a misspent life.

The novel (with one significant weakness) is well written, with excellent observation and sensitive descriptions. Some of the episodes are compelling, revealing the heart and soul of Jim and the impact that Shanghai had o
...more
B J Burton
Sep 29, 2013 B J Burton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Empire of the Sun' has long been one of my favourite books, telling the story of Jim, a young boy held for years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Singapore. It was based on the author’s own wartime experiences, which explained how he could write so convincingly with a young boy’s voice.
For years I’ve put off reading this book, the sequel, because I didn’t want to risk changing my positive view of the first book and its author. It goes without saying that 'The Kindness of Women' is exceptio
...more
port22
May 05, 2015 port22 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Autopsy takes weeks to complete, the dead body is kept in formaldehyde. During that time Jim falls in love with Miriam, who senses that she can't claim his complete attention. The dead woman's body sets Jim free, from the dreams of death.

The details of the autopsy are medically correct and the slow pace of the dissection present constant uneasiness that alternates with love making scenes of Jim and Miriam.

Jim's obsession with sex and death are the two main topics that interplay in the book.

The d
...more
Matthew
Nov 24, 2015 Matthew rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction-general
I usually stick to genre novels, so its a bit hard for me to know what to say about a book like this. Ostensibly, this is a novel, but it seems to me a work of non-fiction, a memoir by Ballard. It's advertised as a a sequel to Empire of the Sun, the first section actually rehashes those events, albeit with significant differences, and ends with Ballard participating in, and attending a screening of the film adaptation. There is also a section that seems to revisit the events of his novel Crash ( ...more
Marjet
Oct 11, 2010 Marjet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Het autobiografische ‘The Kindness of women’ van J.G. Ballard is een uitstekend boek en het vervolg op ‘Empire of the sun’, dat verfilmd werd door Steven Spielberg en gaat over de jonge Jim, die in WOII het jappenkamp in Shanghai overleefde.
Getekend door zijn heftige jeugd, probeert de oudere Jim zijn leven in na-oorlogs Engeland op te bouwen. Hij studeert medicijnen in Cambridge, wordt vlieger in Canada en uiteindelijk schrijver.
Ballard is een kroniekschrijver over het leven van de tweede helft
...more
Alex Roberts
May 18, 2009 Alex Roberts rated it really liked it
J.G. Ballard's penchant for "auto-eroticism" has perhaps resulted in his signature notoriety- and there's certainly a smattering of vehicular shenanigans here- however, in The Kindness of Women, underneath and throughout, is an undeniable warmth and compassion for the characters, regardless of their foibles, uncertain motives or indiscretions. The grace and poetry of the language always keeps an element of humanity present, and though there is an overriding sense of ruefulness, a spirit of Survi ...more
J.C. Greenway
Nov 30, 2014 J.C. Greenway rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1990s
So hit and miss, this one. Loved it in parts, but by the end I just thought it was a bit ridiculous. J. G. Ballard only has to meet a woman for her to want to sleep with him, even if it happens 40 years after that first meeting. His wife gives him permission to cheat with the living incarnation of the Swinging Sixties before promptly dying and allowing him to pursue the affair relatively guilt free. And for all the Kindness of the Women, he doesn't have it in him to reciprocate, displaying their ...more
Clive Warner
Feb 14, 2008 Clive Warner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This autobiographical story of JG Ballard's early life is a must-read for Brits who grew up in those times - basically the baby boomers. I love Ballard's superb command of English, his expert and innovative use of metaphor and simile, not to mention his willingness to relate intimate details of his life with women.
Very highly recommended.

http://www.jgballard.ca/criticism/jgb...
I can seriously recommend this analysis of The Kindness of Women. What interests me is that I am currently working on a
...more
Rose
Apr 30, 2010 Rose rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

The sequel to "Empire of the Sun" brings the autobiography of James G. Ballard to us, giving us what he felt was an important and healing aspect of his life. Healing from his boyhood experiences in China during WWII took many years.
After "Empire", the sequel pales in comparison. Perhaps this is rightly so, as how much excitement and horror could one life bare? If I could choose only one book of Ballard's, it would be "Empire". It simply outshines "Kindness" in every respect.
Ballard does entertai
...more
Al Young
Oct 06, 2013 Al Young rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The Kindness of Women was written in 1991 as a sequel to his popular Empire of the Sun. It scores an impressive 4 1/2 stars on Amazon, but is not a book I would recommend to anyone, and didn't do much for me.

Parts of it were good. It's autobiographical fiction, and the-life he grew up in- Japan- controlled Shanghai concentration camp in WW2 is scarier than anything he (or anyone) could imagine.

So, I haven't picked up Ballard since this and The Drowned World, though I may give him another try one
...more
Dead John Williams
May 30, 2015 Dead John Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
If you have come across The Empire of the Sun, a movie by Stephen Spielberg, that was just one part of J G Ballard’s early life.

The movie is true to the original book. This book is the second part of his autobiography.

To be honest some of his books are weird, like Crash for example but I would never have believed that Crash was based on true events and real people!

If you like biographies, either of these will show you inside a life that is really a mixture of the place and time he was born into
...more
Andrew
Nov 28, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own
Probably one of the more interesting of Ballard's novels, The Kindness of Women is sort of half-biography, half-novel. The most compelling parts of the book are undoubtedly the scenes detailed Ballard's experience in Shanghai before and during WW2- equally horrifying and inexplicably alluring. The book does get a bit long winded in the sections following the 60s and loses focus, but this book deserves 4 stars just for it's incredible picture of Shanghai alone.
Alexander
Nov 27, 2011 Alexander rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
If this is a sequal to Empire of the Sun, I preferred the first book. I have a number of Ballard's books (along side all his other books etc. left to me in his will by my late best friend), but I'm unsure which Ballard to have a go at next. Atrocity Exhibition I'm having great problems getting into. Hmmm, what to read? What to read?
David
Dec 10, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Semi autobiographical novel starts with an overlap of Jim's life in the Japanese camp in Shanghai and then goes on to cover his life in England in the fifties, sixties and seventies. It's largely about him and his friendships and relationships. Apart from lots of lurid sex, its an evocative portrait of London especially during the sixties.
Vida Carden-coyne
Mar 14, 2012 Vida Carden-coyne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was the beginning of my oddessy into Ballards realm.

Fascinating and meant as a kind of sequel to Empire of the Sun.

Who ever turned me on to home I thank deeply as his work has enhanced my own imagination throught the years.
Norman Howe
May 22, 2015 Norman Howe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This continues the autobiographical novel begun in "Empire of the Sun" This is much more episodic than the first book"," beginning in Shanghai in 1938"," and coming full circle with the premiere of the motion picture.
Christopher Walker
Raw and tender are definitely the words to describe this book. From his experiences in the brothels of Canada to his various conquests, loves and affairs Ballard leaves very little to the imagination.
Nick
Oct 28, 2012 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was quite a good read but ultimately a bit dissatisfying. The book meanders a lot and some of the developments are a bit predictable; for instance the happy family scene in the middle can only end in disaster.
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J.G. Ballard: The Kindness of Women 6 19 Dec 21, 2012 09:06AM  
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Empire of the Sun (2 books)
  • Empire of the Sun (Empire of the Sun, #1)

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“With its passive and unobtrusive despotism, the camera governed the smallest spaces of our lives. Even in the privacy of our own homes we had all been recruited to play our parts in what were little more than real-life commercials. As we cooked in our kitchens we were careful to follow the manufacturer's instructions, as we made love in our bedrooms we embraced within a familiar repertoire of gestures and affections. The medium of film had turned us all into minor actors in an endlessly running daytime serial. In the future, airliners would crash and presidents would be assassinated within agreed conventions as formalised as the coronation of a tsar.” 7 likes
“As Miriam released my hand I felt that she and Midwife Bell had returned to a more primitive world, where men never intruded and even their role in conception was unknown. Here the chain of life was mother to daughter, daughter to mother. Fathers and sons belonged in the shadows with the dogs and livestock, like the retriever growling at Midwife Bell's unfamiliar car from the window of my neighbours' living room.” 2 likes
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