I read Empire of the Sun back in 2001 and I was impressed by this war story/coming of age novel. However as I re read I’m not quite as astounded as I was before.
The story of a young boy stranded in war torn shanghai is equally terrifying and enlightening. As Jim struggles to survive he matures and his worldview starts to change. J.G. Ballard depicts this wonderfully. Also I like the way he shows us how the respectable social classes which he grew up in have turned into nobodies.
In this respect the book succeeds , since it is autobiographical Ballard’ writing simply leaps off the page. You definitely know what he’s talking about. Saying that there are certain passages which are dull and repetitive. There were times where I said inwardly ‘ come on get on with it’. It does drag.
Fortunately it does pick up and ends triumphantly (well in a dour way) but ti is one of those reading experiences that you will not forget too soon.
Hmmm it looks like I’m not a James Kelman fan. I didn’t like How Late it was , How Late too much and The Busconductor Hines didn’t really impress me either.
It’s a book that’s supposed to portray a real working class person , with his trials and tribulations but it ends up just focusing on mind numbingly dull repetitive events , such as going down to the pub and screwing up his job constantly.
I didn’t love but I didn’t hate it either.
It’s funny how experimental novels either a) super engaging reads (cf Umberto Eco , B.S. Johnson or Ali Smith) or b) fail completely ( a lot that are featured on this list). Dictionary of The Khazars falls between the two. Also as a small disclaimer ; I received the male version of this book as the female one was unavailable at the time.
The Dictionary of the Khazars is a detailed history of the Khazar race. However the trick is that the novel takes the form of Dictionary entries so as you read each entry you get a an idea of the Khazars story and all the bit players. To make matters more interesting the book is divided into three parts : A Christian , Muslim and Jewish view of the Khazar people AND the making of the dictionary itself (there’s a huge homage to Eco here).
In some parts I had a lot of fun piecing things together , plus Pavic adds a lot of interesting surreal moments , but I felt that in places the plot runs dry and that the author was trying way too hard to be different. I wouldn’t say that this is a failed experiment but rather a curate’s egg of a book.