When We Were Orphans

When We Were Orphans

Book - 2000
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The maze of human memory--the ways in which we accommodate and alter it, deceive and deliver ourselves with it--is territory that Kazuo Ishiguro has made his own. In his previous novels, he has explored this inner world and its manifestations in the lives of his characters with rare inventiveness and subtlety, shrewd humor and insight. In When We Were Orphans, his first novel in five years, he returns to this terrain in a brilliantly realized story that illuminates the power of one's past to determine the present. Christopher Banks, an English boy born in early-twentieth-century Shanghai, is orphaned at age nine when his mother and father both vanish under suspicious circumstances. Sent to live in England, he grows up to become a renowned detective and, more than twenty years later, returns to Shanghai, where the Sino-Japanese War is raging, to solve the mystery of the disappearances. The story is straightforward. Its telling is remarkable. Christopher's voice is controlled, detailed, and detached, its precision unsurprising in someone who has devoted his life to the examination of details and the rigors of objective thought. But within the layers of his narrative is slowly revealed what he can't, or won't, see: that his memory, despite what he wants to believe, is not unaffected by his childhood tragedies; that his powers of perception, the heralded clarity of his vision, can be blinding as well as enlightening; and that the simplest desires--a child's for his parents, a man's for understanding--may give rise to the most complicated truths. A masterful combination of narrative control and soaring imagination, When We Were Orphans is Kazuo Ishiguro at his best.
Publisher: New York : A.A. Knopf, 2000.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780375410543
0375410546
Branch Call Number: ISHI
Characteristics: 335p. 24cm.

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s
sailjenk
Jun 12, 2017

Remains of the Day was good, the film better.
His other books I found hugely disappointing.

1
1aa
Aug 04, 2016

A awkward book about an awkward man and some key elements of his life. About two thirds of the book is slow, sensitive, and highly introspective, and the last third is odd: suspenseful and the naivety of Banks is crystal clear. The penultimate paragraph is truly great, it could have been written by Willa Cather.

l
LoganLib_Central
Nov 26, 2015

Selected for the Logan Central Monday Book Club in 2016. For a full list of 2016 selections, see the Logan Central Monday Book Club list.

4
47bullseye
Apr 26, 2015

Thru Chap 8

theorbys Jan 30, 2015

Revisiting many of the themes of Unconsoled, and despite his obvious writing skills, this novel falls flat. I thought Unconsoled was a good 200 pages too long, and that this novel, 200 pages shorter than the Unconsoled, might be just right. But sadly it's a good 100 pages too long.

v
vcc
Apr 14, 2014

Another masterpiece from Ishiguro. This time his main character is Christopher Banks, a Shanghai-born man of British desendant, who fashions himself as a Sherlock Holmes to rescue his long-disappeared parents and save the world from war. Banks is the epitome of British colonialism during the opium wars in China, his selective or distorted memory aiding in his denial of the facts.

Reviewed: 12 November 2006

Don27 Sep 01, 2013

A gripping, perceptive wonderful story. Ishiguro takes us seamlessly from Shanghai to England and back again. I felt for the narrator. Ishiguro has an interesting writing style. He keeps us away a little, but that works here. A rewarding read.

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lgrst4
Jul 16, 2012

This was a bookclub read that just didn't hook me. The narrator was unreliable and that was frustrating!

m
Maupertuis
Jul 07, 2012

The book has its classic tone and rhythm Ishiguro has excelled in "The Remains of the Day". It has even been shortlisted for a book prize. It includes, however, the historical episode of the English selling opium to the Chinese, and this can displease certain sensibilities. The epiphany of the narrator that all his well-being in England - private school, moderately high income, opportunity to choose an interesting profession - has been built on profits from opium trade, this epiphany fits into the well-known model of rich countries exploiting poor countries. This might be disturbing, depending on the political viewpoint, even though facts are scrupulously true.

l
LazyNeko
Feb 12, 2012

A Sherlock Holmes wannabe goes to Shanghai to work on a personal cold case while the Japanese are invading China. And yes, this detective has the worst sense of timing ever. Ishiguro's style totally doesn't work here. Instead, it bungles a potentially good story.

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s
sky123
Mar 27, 2016

I have become increasingly preoccupied with my memories, a preoccupation encouraged by the discovery that these memories - of my childhood, of my parents - have lately begun to blur. A number of times recently I have found myself struggling to recall something that only two or three years ago I believed was ingrained in my mind forever. I have been obliged to accept, in other words, that with each passing year, my life in Shanghai will grow less distinct, until one day all that will remain will be a few muddled images. p.70

l
LazyNeko
Feb 12, 2012

"...And those of us whose duty it is to combat evil, we are... how might I put it? We're like the twine that holds together the slats of a wooden blind. Should we fail to hold strong, then everything will scatter..."

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