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The Kindness of Women
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2001
'The Kindness of Women' is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read - it gripped me with the shock of seeing deep into a man's hurt but inspired psyche, it left me weeping in pity for Ballard and marvelling at his survival. And laughing out loud. The account of Ballard's life after Singapore, this is no ordinary narrative autobiography - rather, a series of chapters each of which might stand as a small masterpiece alone, each like the fragment of a smashed mirror reflecting a piece of Ballard's life in microcosm - his wife and her tragic death, his friends, his children (the chapter called 'Magic World' should open every 'anthology of happiness' ever published), his involvement with the 60s through his crashed car exhibition (out of which came Crash, the basis of Cronenburg's film) and his fascination with television. Women provide the linking thread through it all - the ones who Ballard loved, made love to, or in turn loved him - his wife, Miriam, most unforgettably. But the key is an account of a man coming to terms with himself and his violent childhood - in the end what one leaves this book with is a sense of the kindness of Ballard. For this beautiful, modest, deceptively simple book, shot through with images and symbols of suffering, pain, madness and death, is in the end, more than any of his other books, a celebration of life, of love, of friends and of people. Towards the end, Ballard remarks how it had taken him most of his life to realise how these simple things were what made him happy - the rest were just dross. For anyone who has ever questioned their life, or felt great pain in their heart or in their soul, or experienced suffering of any kind - this book offeres the promise of redemption and catharsis. READ IT. It is a work for us all, a book of which one can truly say it has enriched the world. Thank you, James.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2002
Empire of the Sun was one of the best examples of putting your life up to a critical analysis and staring unflinchingly at it . . . Ballard's portrayal of himself during World War II as a child has to rank as one of the more honest (even when it's not so flattering) attempts at a self-charactization that I can really only compare to Norman Mailer's Armies of the Night. Here he continues his own story, using the first person this time out and extending the narrative past World War II and nearly into his present. The beginning is a bit off for those who have read Empire of the Sun since some of the details gone over don't seem to coincide with the events we learned in the previous book but he manages to again evoke its' dreamlike qualities. From there it's mostly episodic and carried by Ballard's keen eye for events and gift for description, through his eyes the sixties and beyond become almost a shared hallucination, something that you wake up from and you're not sure if it really happened or not. There's no overarching narrative to the book, though his quest to overcome the wounds that were opened by his time in the internment camp is a running theme that partly gets resolved in the end, during the time of the making of the Empire of the Sun movie. Still, like real life there are jagged loose ends, lost characters and a graceful melancholy that holds everything together well. Perhaps the only complaint are the sex scenes, far from offensive, they seem almost cold and sterile, like Ballard was sitting there taking notes during the acts themselves, which could be the point for all I know. Because it covers so much more time it doesn't have the searing focus that the previous novel did, but the wide variety of events and times are engaging in their own right and just when you think Ballard has exhausted his ability to put a new spin on describing things, he pulls another effortless phrase out that can't help but stick in your head. A book you probably have to experience more than read, those coming out of Empire of the Sun wanting to see more will probably come away satisfied.
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on November 5, 1998
'The Kindness of Women' is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read - it gripped me with the shock of seeing deep into a man's hurt but inspired psyche, it left me weeping in pity for Ballard and marvelling at his survival. And laughing out loud. The account of Ballard's life after Singapore, this is no ordinary narrative autobiography - rather, a series of chapters each of which might stand as a small masterpiece alone, each like the fragment of a smashed mirror reflecting a piece of Ballard's life in microcosm - his wife and her tragic death, his friends, his children (the chapter called 'Magic World' should open every 'anthology of happiness' ever published), his involvement with the 60s through his crashed car exhibition (out of which came Crash, the basis of Cronenburg's film) and his fascination with television. Women provide the linking thread through it all - the ones who Ballard loved, made love to, or in turn loved him - his wife, Miriam, most unforgettably. But the key is an account of a man coming to terms with himself and his violent childhood - in the end what one leaves this book with is a sense of the kindness of Ballard. For this beautiful, modest, deceptively simple book, shot through with images and symbols of suffering, pain, madness and death, is in the end, more than any of his other books, a celebration of life, of love, of friends and of people. Towards the end, Ballard remarks how it had taken him most of his life to realise how these simple things were what made him happy - the rest were just dross. For anyone who has ever questioned their life, or felt great pain in their heart or in their soul, or experienced suffering of any kind - this book offeres the promise of redemption and catharsis. READ IT. It is a work for us all, a book of which one can truly say it has enriched the world. Thank you, James.
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on July 14, 1997
This is an autobiographical novel following the authors attempts to make sense of the weird world we inhabit.

I have read most of Ballard's books and enjoyed them for their beautiful prose and imagery and their outlandish ideas.However I was often left rather baffled after reading them.

Understanding some of the forces that shaped the author's life shows that there is some sort of logic behind his other work.

The author doesn't spare hs own feelings and the result is some very moving and quite shocking passages
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on March 21, 1998
I became a fan of J.G. Ballard after seeing the film "Empire of the Sun" and reading the book it was based on. I became intrigued by Ballard's experiences, and The Kindness of Women does not disappoint. Here we see the subtle effects of his harrowing experiences in the war, and we are entranced as he moves on through a maze of love and sex. It is truly a good book, worthy of multiple reads.
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on September 2, 1999
Sets out to be pornographic, succeeds in being profoundly depressing. "Vermillion Sands", written at the beginning of Ballard's career, remains, sadly, the best thing he ever wrote. The rest was all promise and now even that is gone.
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on June 24, 1999
The Kindness of Women is a compelling semi-autobiographical novel -- look no further for a terrific book, and a great example of Ballard's skewed and surreal sensibilities.
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on December 13, 1999
Truly an excellent book. Important to read Empire of the Sun first since this is something of a sequel.
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