"Empire of the Sun," is a semi-autobiographical novel of when J. G. Ballard was at the Lunghua Interment Camp, as a boy, during WWII.
The story opens when the protagonist, Jim, age eleven, is with his parents at an early Christmas event in Shanghai. It is being held at the residence of the President of the English Resident's Association.
Chinese refugees and beggars are everywhere in Shanghai, people become immune to their plight. As Jim's family leaves their home to attend the Christmas festivities, their driver runs over the foot of an elderly beggar. The driver doesn't stop the car and it's as if the beggar wasn't a real person. I thought this was an interesting comparison to the story in the Bible where the traveler helps the man who had been injured on that road.
The night of the Christmas party, Japanese attack both a U.S. and English navy ship in the Shanghai harbor and war comes to Shanghai.
Jim becomes separated from his parents and observes war with complete detachment. It is as if he's become separated from the events before him.
The story is written in an analytical style as we watch the events through Jim's eyes and follow him when he is taken to the Lunghua Interment Camp.
I would have liked more emotion from Jim with the major events taking place before him but maybe the author wanted to present things in an unemotional, analytical style.
I enjoyed seeing a glimpse of civilian life in an occupied zone during WWII.