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This is a tremendous novel, based of course on real life, about the experiences of a boy surviving Shanghai during the Japanese occupation if the Second World War. It's brutal and awful, yet the protagonist's innocence gives the whole narrative a vivid foundation, slightly distanced from the awful world of the adults, yet focused on important details like how many maggots you can eat to remain healthy. The descriptions are vivid and visceral, and the human interactions in desperate circumstances all too plausible.

Long, long ago, I saw the Spielberg film of the book (and have almost completely forgotten it), and much more recently I read the author's autobiography which covers much of the same ground (with the important difference that he actually spent his period of internment with his parents rather than separated from them). I seem to have been reading a fair bit about Shanghai recently, including the first good Tintin book, set a few years earlier. Must try and go there some time.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
attolia
Mar. 4th, 2014 12:24 am (UTC)
What impressed me about this book was the realization of how much it affected Ballard's other stories. There is some version of the long march in nearly every Ballard book I've read.
bibliofile
Mar. 4th, 2014 02:39 am (UTC)
The movie is brilliant, even the kid actor (who is Christian Bale, so not as surprising as it might be).

So many more books to read....
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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