After being released from the internment camps in Shanghai in 1945, Jim, a teenager, moves to England, a country he is unfamiliar with despite being English. He studies to become a doctor at Cambridge, but drops out. He goes to Canada to train as a NATO pilot, but is asked to leave after breaking the rules at the airbase. Back in England he settles in a small village called Shepperton with his wife and three children and starts to write books. But then his wife dies in a tragic accident in Spain. Jim is raising three children on his own while visiting the world of his more eccentric friends.
This is a part fictional, part autobiographical work where all the main events in J.G Ballard’s life are included. It is also a sequel to Empire of the Sun and the terrors of the war in Shanghai is ever present in Jim’s adult life. He never feels home in England, at least not until he becomes a father. He is also drawn to the darker side of life of his much more eccentric friends; testing LSD while being filmed, watching the making of a pornographic film which includes a girl and a dog, and staging an art exhibition about crashed cars.
I like how well Ballard writes about awful and perverse things. What I didn’t like about the book is that the first part of it was more or less a shorter version of Empire of the Sun but with a different angle. I’m glad it is some years since I read that book, so I didn’t remember the exact details.